I’m never one to steer clear of controversy, but even I was surprised at the interest an event I organised on mental health sparked.
I’ve long been a Fellow of the RSA and enjoy the challenging debates they organise in London. Locally, a group of Fellows have been meeting for a while with education as their focus. But what else could we do here in Norwich I asked myself?
Now mental health and the challenge of growing demand for services, coupled with reduction in Government funding is something that grabs my interest. My view is that declining mental health levels, particularly amongst young people, are a symptom of an increasingly unrealistic society. To put it simply; it’s too easy to feel that others expect more of us than is comfortably possible.
So I organised an RSA debate to explore the causes and perhaps start to consider solutions. My hope was that getting together a group of local RSA Fellows would be interesting. I persuaded the Chair of the local NHS Mental Health Trust, the CEO on Norwich Mind, a specialist in workplace stress reduction and the CEO of our local Community Foundation to speak.
Publicity drew an audience and also a little controversy. A campaign group concerned about the impact of funding cuts asked to be involved. I wasn’t sure and so they came along anyway, handing out leaflets as people arrived. We spoke and I invited them in. They asked some very pertinent questions. I’m glad they came along.
So I have two messages to share. One is that I’m not afraid to speak my mind about mental health. For a time last year, post-concussion syndrome and a depressive nature made me suicidal. I am out and happy to speak out if it helps others.
But my second message is that however carefully you decide who your audience is, if others feel excluded, you should let them in and hear their points. If you only target the obvious, you’ll usually miss the most interesting.