About Us

Eva died on 27th October 2008 aged 24. She had been suffering from an extreme form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder called ‘Pure O’ which means mainly obsessions, ruminating thoughts that you can’t switch off. After she died her friends made a collection for a park bench, which is in The Forbury Gardens in an historic part of Reading. A fundraising evening followed in the club she loved to go to, the Face Bar in Reading, which raised £1000 for OCD-UK.

And so a group of family and friends began meeting to talk about other fun ways to make money. In the process we found that many of us had experienced, or knew someone who had experienced, mental health problems. We talked about a ‘wish list’ of what would have helped us-things we wished we’d known, services we wished were available and the type of support we would ideally like to have. And in the process we found that sharing our experiences helped all of us and our first aim came together-HAVING A LOCAL FOCUS. We hope other young people in other parts of the country can use some of our ideas to set up their own groups and fundraising events.

This led to aim two: FUNDRAISING. Sometimes mental health issues are a barrier to work. But running fund raising events gave us a purpose, a focus, brought a community together and gave us a real sense of satisfaction. It’s amazing how many skills people have and develop in the process! These can all count towards Curriculum Vitae for an employer.

This led us on to aim three-CAMPAIGNING and GIVING PEOPLE A VOICE. This can be done as part of charities (third sector organisations), as part of the health service (public and patent involvement includes organisations and individuals) or as part of government consultations. Sometimes it’s a problem just knowing what is out there. We hope to feed into our own PCT Stakeholder group in Berkshire West and hope you can do the same in your area. We also wanted to be practical so that people can talk about what was difficult for them and what would have helped, in order to be constructive. At a later stage we hope to host a chat forum.
As you can see from our ‘thought shower’, helping people back into work was only one of many issues we felt needed changing. And there are many good organisations and charities out there already doing some of this work, so we wanted to support them. Pulling together what is already being done led us on to aim four:

SIGNPOSTING AND GIVING INFORMATION. We have included (by topic)NICE guidance which includes guides to the best evidence based practice, so people will know what health professionals are being told and will see how support progresses according to the severity of an illness. This is followed by links to charities and voluntary organisations which often have much practical advice and experience from service users. Finally there will be links to Department of Health strategies and policies-basically helping people to understand and navigate a minefield of knowledge. Knowledge is empowerment.
And finally aim five-this was proposed by Eva’s friends:  HONOURING AND REMEMBERING EVA. As many people do, Eva felt she was the only one with her type of mental illness and hid it for most of her life. Her friends have designed a wristband so anyone with mental health problems or who has a friend or family member who does, can wear one and know they are not alone. We hope this website will help others to not feel so alone and leave you with our main affirmation ‘DON’T GIVE UP’.

We had a ‘thought shower’ of what we would ideally like to see and this was the result (many of these issues are addressed in the New Horizons document and in the many charities-we will try to signpost to them all):

1. Education and awareness raising and reducing stigma.

Stop discussion and admission of mental health problems being taboo-change the culture of sweeping things under the carpet..

Raise awareness and let people know where they can go and what can be done.

Educate on causes and effects of mental illness including all the personality disorders and give accurate information.

Medicines information in the public domain.

It’s hard to get GPs to listen and diagnose anything other than depression. You just get tablets and feel they have given up on you.
More training on mental health issues in medical schools as this constitutes a third of the GPs work.

MH staff should be very knowledgeable,have really good communication skills and some life experience of MH issues

There should be more programmes on TV of those with MH problems.

Information should be personal, audio format, visual e.g. video and TV as well as written (maybe graphic novels).These should be in all public libraries.

Everyone involved with children’s and young people’s services, from voluntary organisations like Guides and Scouts, to Youth Clubs, should have ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training to know how to pick up problems. Recognising poor self-esteem and poor assertiveness skills should not stop at 13 in schools.

Communication skills and parenting skills in schools.

Accept that poor MH affects your pride and self-esteem and allow for this.

Challenge biases against visual displays of MH e.g. self-harming. Change the public perception.

2. Work and workplace issues.

Give options in the workplace e.g. 16 hours a week worked flexibly.

Make it the law for all big companies to offer this type of working to a percentage of employees.

Train employers in helping to recognise when someone is not well to prevent lack of understanding.

Give proper training and provide reasonable environments.

Prevent discrimination and campaign against discrimination in the workplace.

Support people in what they CAN do.

Communicate better-communication skills offered in the workplace.

Have leaflets from all the mental health charities in the workplace.

3. Empowering people of all social groups.

Have open, informal social groups where people can chat.

If you feel bad, you can’t ask for help and get out. Someone needs to come to you.

Extend support for those with mild/moderate depression, social anxiety not just severe and enduring mental illness.

There should be a local ‘improving mental health’ community. It’s not taken seriously enough-it’s a big problem and as severe as cancer.

Ensure everyone has access to services and information e.g. travellers, refugees, young offenders, those with English as a second language or illiterate, the elderly, those who tend to be isolated for any reason e.g. cultural.

4. Services.

Not enough self-help or information e.g. online cognitive behavioural therapy.Just waiting lists to see ‘the professionals.’Ensure the services are there to pick up referrals.

Where do you go if things are just ‘not quite right?’-whether this applies to an individual with problems, a worried parent, a violent partner-whoever.

Help much more quickly before crisis. Address people’s fears.

Acknowledge that a lot more support is needed when people finally approach their GP. More intense support in first few weeks. Many people felt they were just given anti-depressants but these increased their feeling of anxiety or anger in first few weeks so stopped taking them and felt too demoralised to go back to GP.

Counselling is only offered in a crisis and time limited-some people need many weeks or months.

5. Concerns for children.

Have ‘safe places’ for children to go if living with mentally ill parents (NB-lots of people felt unsafe as child carers in our group.)

Children’s confidentiality should be respected. Fear of parents being involved.

We educate children too late against mental health issues-sexual health starts in primary school.’

Have a ‘retreat’ for children-give them choices not just ‘in care’ or ‘at home.’ Daily respite / weekly/monthly. Child has a say.

Train teachers to recognise MH issues and also to know what to do.

6. Services for 13-25 year olds.

Have a young person’s helpline-not just Childline.

More preventative treatment for young people.

More joined up working e.g. Samaritans texting and email service (aimed at those in severe and acute distress), Young Minds, Youth Services.

7. Families and Carers.

Change of culture amongst families and professionals-it’s not just the individual that needs support but the dynamics of the family often need changing.

More support for Carers-not just personal support but better advice on how to help. Better advertising of Care Direct.

Have a phone help line. More phone help-one number for lots issues.
Joint working with Citizens Advice Bureau.

Summary.

Ensure mental health issues are addressed in every part of the country from children to the elderly, in workplaces, education and all social groups so that stigma is removed, services are easily accessible to everyone, work is available to everyone and fluctuations in mental health are accepted as ‘the norm.’