I’ve been around long enough to remember the opening of the Cafe Club in the late 1980’s, so it is with great sadness that the Cafe Club and the Solent Mind clubs will close on 31st March 2011.
The Café Club was one of the first of the community-based mental health services to develop in the wake of the long stay hospital closures. Over the years the Cafe Club has inspired loyalty in its members and staff, and it was one of the few services to open evenings, weekends and public holidays. As well as friendship and safety it offered an array of creative activities from bike maintenance and wellbeing groups to computing.
The Solent Mind Clubs, as they came to be known, open to communities across Southampton, also offered social contact, women-only groups, and real creative outlets. I was once invited to sit in jamming on bass guitar with the music group – who were very tolerant of me luckily! – and when they performed in public they were truly inspirational.
Times change however, and mental health services need to change too. Most people will organise their own social and creative lives and can take advantage of all the encouragement towards mental and physical wellbeing that now exists. Solent Mind will still be there in future supporting people through personal budgets in all kinds of different ways – though meeting many of the same needs. But that should not stop the staff, volunteers and members from feeling proud of what they achieved for themselves and each other.
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