Monday 1 October 2012

On Top Of The World

Wow that was quite a day!

Exceeding all our expectations 100 clients, carers and professional staff climbed Snowdon on Friday in challenging conditions, in particular the familiar but spooky cloud cover that invested the final 800 feet to the summit. Fortunately the rain mainly held off until the final minutes (but drenched the check-point supervisors who of course had to stay up all day and come down last sweeping the slower climbers before them).

Along with representatives of the three Movin' On Up partners we were joined on the day by a big team from the Welsh Government plus contingents from our friends in Mindwise and Rethink, Hafal's sister charities in Northern Ireland and England respectively.

But the day belonged to the service users who defied the stigma which assumes their passivity and marched all the way up and down again in high spirits. Remarkably only four people didn't make it to the top (and no shame in that - they did their best!) and there were no significant injuries, always a possibility with so many people involved however well the risks are assessed.

Meanwhile a further 60 Hafal activists from North Wales turned out to support the climbers and enjoy a day of activities at our "Basecamp Bash" in the intriguingly-named Electric Mountain Centre...

I found the climb enjoyable but harder than the dry run back in July. I think that was because I stopped to talk to people and so didn't proceed methodically at my own pace. Any pause seemed to lead rapidly to aching muscles and stiffness! This was truly a tough challenge and no mere gesture.

Mental Health Foundation service user Terry Davies said: "Twenty years ago the idea that an event like this, which is being led by the people who are most important in the process, would have taken place would not have been believed. People with serious mental illness have many mountains to climb in their journey towards recovery, but when we work together – as we have during the campaign - we can move mountains. We are all capable of achieving great things as we have today. It’s only right that we shout about our achievements from the heights - and there aren’t many places higher than Snowdon!"

And Sue Wigmore, Manager of Wales Bipolar UK, said: "The Movin’ On Up campaign has achieved a lot this summer. It’s brought service users, carers and mental health professionals together to consider the excellent legislation we have in Wales and the best way to take it forward. I’ve attended some of the events which have taken place across the country and I’ve been delighted by the lively debates that have taken place. Friday’s climb capped the campaign in style. I took part in the Pen y Fan climb in May; it wasn’t easy. Today’s climb was an even tougher challenge, but one that service users rose to. The campaign has provided a great springboard for campaigning in future years and how to tackle the next big challenge: how to bridge the implementation gap we have in Wales – the gap between the fine legislation and  patchy service delivery."

A big vote of thanks to Emma Billings and the other staff and volunteers who made the day such a success - I know that this stretched us further than any previous event and yet everything worked like a well-oiled machine - apart from my poor legs.

Next week on World Mental Health Day the campaign microbus will celebrate its journey around all 22 counties of Wales (Snowdon  - in Gwynedd of course - was the final stop) at the Senedd where we will be joined by the Minister of Health Lesley Griffiths AM and other guests including clients from North and South Wales: watch this space.