Friday 15 October 2010

Civil Rights

To the Senedd for the launch of our new publication 12 Lives, a groundbreaking set of personal stories exposing the challenges faced by people with a serious mental illness, and our new Young Peoples' Information Hub including the "Road to Recovery" guide (follow Hub link for the on-line version), a distillation of Hafal's recovery methodology aimed at a younger audience and using the VW microbus extensively in its styling.

There is a fantastic buzz in the large crowd, especially from several of the "12-Lifers" who are present and clearly excited at the publication which has had an amazing reception already in the press and other media as well as from the movers and shakers.

Jonathan Morgan AM, author of the LCO which brought powers to the Assembly to legislate on mental health, launches “12 Lives” enthusiastically and praises the courage of the participants. Helen-Mary Jones AM, Chair of the Assembly's Children and Young People Committee, eloquently describes the need to engage effectively with young people in distress. Quite rightly there is emotion in the air.

Having indicated that they just want to talk to the AMs at the last minute the BBC’s Mark Hannaby interviews me too on their daily political show – see the result here (go to the 1 hr 8 minute point unless you want to hear Prime Minister’s Questions as well).

Dai Lloyd AM listens attentively as we brief him on our concern to ensure that care plans prescribed under the Measure are truly holistic. Sweeping the corridors I guide David Melding AM in our direction and briefly greet Health and Social Services Minister Edwina Hart AM.

From the Assembly Government, Phil Chick talks to Hafal Vice-Chair Chris Eastwood (also a 12-Lifer) about supporting people with a serious mental illness who have parenting responsibilities and Peter Meredith-Smith attends to network and check out the launch. I also meet Christine Jackson and Ian Mcgonagle from Lincoln University commissioned to create training materials on care planning in the light of the new Measure. Hafal staff include National Service User Champion Sue Barnes and Junaid Iqbal, recently tasked with taking forward our liaison with the National Assembly on two days a week. Jane Wycherley from the Mental Health Foundation, who assisted with 12 Lives as did MDF the Bipolar Organisation, lends support to the event alongside 12-Lifers Barry Dix and Tracey Saunders. Together with Jo Roberts, Jason Norris, John Hardy, and Leanne Kelly that makes 8 of the 12 present and they all get into animated discussion with the AMs and other visitors.

The mood is lightened when Helen-Mary Jones describes Jonathan Morgan as proof that “our Tories are nicer that their (she means the English) Tories” – there is of course no more dangerous thing than a compliment from your political opponents, especially combined with a swipe at your colleagues!

More pictures at Hafal's Facebook (not yet formally launched so get an early look now).

Let's give Helen-Mary Jones the last word in drawing the lessons about dealing with discrimination, too long seen as the business of spin-doctors or professional activists, however well-meaning:

"We’ve talked a lot over the last ten years about tackling stigma, but the truth is if we look at any successful civil rights movement, whether it’s black people in the USA, the women’s movement, or the disabled movement more widely, it is always the people themselves who set themselves free; and I see "12 Lives" as being absolutely in that tradition of people speaking out about the truth of their experience because that is what will change other people’s hearts and minds. I want to pay a tremendous amount of respect to the people who have had the courage to do that."