Sometime last year I was contacted by Janice Davis, the manager of ‘Safe Haven’ in my hometown of Corby, to ask if I’d be willing to be the figurehead for their mental health service. For my sins, apart from imagining myself strapped to the front of a ship for cosmetic purposes, I did nothing about it. At the back of my mind I had some notion that I could go and tell them about the sacred ramble and they – Janice, her fellow workers and the folk who benefit from their service – could tell me a bit more about them.
We had a few exchanges and then I was stopped dead in my tracks with this short message from Janice…
just sent link to fight closing of safehaven we have lost our funding from april 1st sad day !
I exchanged a bunch of messages with her, followed by a good old fashioned phone call.
What is Safe Haven in Corby? It’s an out of hours, crisis service for people with mental health problems covering East Northamptonshire. For the folk who use the service it provides a valuable, open door, drop in resource that is directly accessible to them without any kind of convoluted referral via a professional process. They don’t have to meet the services definition of ‘Crisis’ – instead it provides folk with a truly person centred service – trusting them when they say they are experiencing a crisis. It provides trained staff on the end of the phone and, if necessary, transport to the drop in centre, a Safe Haven, giving the person a friendly, homely environment to talk.
For professionals and statutory services, Safe Haven provides an alternative to out of hours social work service, an alternative to accident and emergency, an alternative to 999 services, an alternative to out of hours GP services and an alternative to NHS direct – saving time, resources and money all round.
On my walk around the edge of the UK I talk to people daily, telling them how mental health problems are widespread in our lovely country, how 1 in 4 of us will experience some manner of mental malady during our lives and how it’s the biggest killer of men under 35. I tell people that every year over 5000 people take their own lives in the UK and that 75% of those are men. I tell people about how cutbacks are causing huge problems across the country and that there’s a huge postcode lottery regarding services – that people with a mental health problem aren’t given the same guarantee by the NHS as people with physical health problems – the guarantee that promises a maximum wait of 14 weeks between diagnosis and the start of treatment. I tell people that folk with mental health problems are given NO such guarantee and that, because of this, 1000’s of people with a diagnosis of mental ill health receive NO treatment whatsoever.
Corby has the highest suicide rate in Northamptonshire – a rate that’s 3% higher than the rest of the UK.
Safe Haven, the service that provides so much cost just £104 thousand last year. That’s less than £2 for every person living in Corby. That’s not a day, a week, or a month – that’s £2 for the year. That’s just a smidge over a penny a day.
What can I do? It’s all well and good making a noise about mental ill health in some general, abstract, this is about somebody else, kind of a way – I can do more – but what?
Well, I can make a noise. I can take Walk a Mile back to the town of my birth to fight with all I have, the closure of this essential service. I can talk to the people who use the service, people who want to remain anonymous because of the stigma of mental ill health, I can share their stories with anyone who’s willing to listen, through any media that’s willing to have me. I’m happy to post flyers, shake cans, talk to commissioning bodies, to social workers, mental health workers, the police, community leaders, managers of A&E, anyone who’s willing to have me really – I’m willing to look at any means of raising money in the short or long term…
I’ll even set up camp in Corby woods.
What can you do?
Walk a Mile