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We are affiliated to Mind, the national mental health charity.

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I reached a milestone recently in my role here as Chief Executive of Solent Mind – the completion of my first 100 days. At points like this I think it’s good to take stock, consider what I have learned and what I have achieved. I thought I would share some of my reflections here with you.

A priority for me has been to gain a good understanding of our organisation. To this end I’ve been visiting our many work bases across all parts of our area, and spending quality time getting to know our staff, volunteers, and service users.  I have been impressed by the passion and commitment people have shown for Solent Mind, our mission and values, and how this makes for a rather special place to work.

It’s been great spending time with our service users. The members of our Forget-me-Nots group at Mayfield Nurseries had me in my gardening gloves, doing my share of digging the flowerbeds, and giving me an insight from their personal stories on how gardening therapy can help people cope with dementia and social isolation.  Meeting with our Carers Group at the Winchester Wellbeing Centre, I learned how peer-to-peer support and sharing personal experiences in a group setting was helping them understand the challenges facing their loved ones going through mental illness.

I’ve been meeting and building relationships with our wide range of partners, in the CCGs and NHS Trusts, local government, the local third sector, the Mental Health Alliance, other local Minds, and our partners at Mind HQ in London. I’ve learned that we’re seen as a valued partner, both in service provision and by bringing a particular focus on the perspective of the individual or service user, through the rich vein of lived experience that runs to our core.  I see the contribution we can make to the reform of mental health services, through the new Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships, ensuring the voice of the individual is at the heart of service design and delivery.

The corporate organisations to which we are charity partner have been an enormous source of support. Speaking to the members of Ordnance Survey’s craft group, I was struck by the care that they had taken putting together an intricate, beautiful wall hanging, and all to raise funds through auction for Solent Mind. I enjoyed spending Saturday morning with the team at our partner West Quay, in the Solent Mind pop-up living room, speaking to members of the public taking a break from shopping to talk about their every-day pressures.

With the Senior Management Team and the Board of Trustees, I have been in discussions about how, alongside the management of our existing services and business, we look to develop our organisation over the next few years to meet the challenges ahead.  In this context, it’s been really valuable to have had the views of our workforce and our partners, not just as to our existing strengths, but where we might have even greater impact.

Finally, can I record my thanks to everyone who has welcomed and supported me during this introductory period – whether that‘s involved you listening, briefing, driving, coffee making, baking, digging, watering, dementia-friend training, running, sewing, liking, retweeting, or (erm) barbershop singing – thank you!

Kevin Gardner


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