5th April 2018

Minutes of the meeting

In attendance: Dick & Hazel L, Brian & James L, Rod C, Sue C, Norma Y, Angela D, Diana W, Terry G.

Apologies: Geraldine M, Tim & Francis W, John & Margaret I, Sarah W,

Minutes of last meeting (8Th March 2018) were agreed as a true record

Matters arising: There were no matters arising.

Guest speaker Julian Eaton (Psychiatrist)

Julian began by reminding the group of his time in West Africa (15 years) working for the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) and now as a Mental Health Advisor for poor countries at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

He suggested that tonight’s discussion would bring out and centre on our own caring experiences and perspectives here in the UK.

To highlight how much we have progressed with MH language and medical terms, he used the example of Sierra Leone in West Africa who, on gaining their independence, took on board UK Laws pretty much wholesale but they did not move on. As an example of that he reported that the Lunacy Act 1902 is still in force there.

Common perceptions here in the UK about MH suffers were agreed by all to be negative and the example given of the stereotypical behaviour for schizophrenics ie it is seen to be one of violence (rather than the truth where they are actually more likely to be victims of violence).  There is still much fear from residents of there being a MH centre/home in their locality. Dianna agreed this was the case with Slippers Hill.

Brian L queried what conditions were covered by the term Mental Health. During discussion it was agreed that MH covered a wide range of condition types. Nevertheless the point being made was the public’s perception still being prejudiced and MH suffers stigmatised. Another example of how entrenched attitudes can be he showed a slide of a Temple sign with a list of people who would be excluded from entering which included Mad ladies / gentlemen.

Julian’s main point was attitudes that must change if there is to be a change in behaviour towards MH suffers this would then help them to make the most of their potential and lead a ‘good life’.

Julian’s next slide outlined several press campaigns aimed at changing attitudes and reduce discrimination as

  • Time to Change                MIND
  • Time to Talk                       World Health Organisation
  • Heads Together                The Royal Family
  • Beyond Blue                      An Australian campaign using sporting stars and celebrities

Dick commented that the subject was too important to leave to celebrities but did concede that they could have an awareness raising role.

It was accepted that changing the public’s attitude would not be easy and will take a long while. It is essential that people get to know and understand much more based on the truth rather than myth and unchallenged stereotypes.

Dick pointed out that improvement/change must be more than doing the same thing for less cost – it must be a complete change in what is done to improve what matters to sufferers on a day to day basis.

The point was also made that the level of spending on MH demonstrates just how little it is valued by decision makers.  This it was agreed – applied globally.

Julian showed a short video of Stuart who, while looking very normal, confessed to being a Schizophrenic making the point that – you just cannot tell.

Business is starting to recognise the benefits (knowing that 1 in 4 people are thought to suffer at some time in their life) and realising that MH is a big source of lost time. Brian L told the group about his employer’s good efforts in this regard.

Discussion moved on to removing bias in MH and the need for a better society that provides a meaningful support network including recognising and reacting to the causes of suicide.

Dick reported that he was currently attending a course designed to help spot the signs of suicide as a precursor to getting more involved both locally and nationally.

Hazel L thought that school children nowadays had a more stressful time at school.  This was backed up by James L who reported that a classmate of his had recently committed suicide at 16 years old.

Julian brought the discussion back to a programme of change using the one that was introduced in Sierra Leone where they:

  • Strengthened the Health System by training nurses
  • Raised awareness in the communities as well as working on attitudes and reducing the reliance on local/traditional Witch Doctor’s remedies
  • Set up a Mental Health Coalitions to help families with what they should be doing – and supporting very influential women’s groups.

Julian also used the effects of Ebola virus epidemic to draw parallels of the difficulties of changing attitudes. In particular how people stuck to traditional ways, despite the information provided by their Government, ie they had little trust in what they were being told.

The group thanked Julian in the usual way.

Upcoming events

Dick reported that our future speakers would be

  • May                      still trying to get a psychologist
  • June                      Our BBQ so no speaker
  • September          Chris Lawrence
  • October               no one at this point
  • November           Jane Padmore

Dick reported that Mike Penning was to open the Hemel Hempstead Wellbeing Centre on Friday May 11th

Rod raised the issue of the Wellbeing Centre reception not asking visitors to sign in when he ran the carer’s tea there. After some discussion this was confirmed by others who attended the tea.  Rod also reported that he had complained to James Holland.

Dick stressed that not only should we be prepared to complain but we should also be prepared to tell them what they must do to put things right.

Any Other Business

Dick reported that a paper he presented at the last Carers in Herts MH Forum was about prevention and it is now to be taken up by them in the form of a campaign to increase the Health & Safety of Carers hoping to match that of HPFT staff and Service Users.

Rod reported that Lloyds Bank were promoting MH and Dacorum Borough Council were taking applications for grants to support community groups (closing date 25th May).

With regard to our summer outing in July, selection was reduced to three choices as follows:

  • Trip on the river lea through the lea valley starting at Broxbourne (more info required)
  • Trip on the river Thames from Maidenhead to Windsor and spending a couple of hours in Windsor (as we did 4 years ago)
  • Bletchley Park (thought to be a little too expensive)

Members are asked to choose:

  • one of the above as an early expression of interest before Dick pursues them any further
  • The Wednesday or Thursday of the second week in July as their preference or state either if it doesn’t matter which

When you have decided please email Dick with your choice

Date of next meeting –3rd May 2018