Autumn is the season of pastel shades, falling leaves, shorter days and … AGMs and conferences. We had a great time at the Mind CEO’s conference last week. The highlight was Clarke Carlisle, erstwhile professional footballer, Chair of the PFA – and totally committed to raising mental health issues in a world where an admission of vulnerability could seriously damage your career. And our Solent Mind staff conference, with fantastic feedback from staff, featured Radio Solent’s Richard Cartridge, very honest and very entertaining on the subject of his own bipolar.
Mind conferences are all about real life. They feature real people with sometimes inspiring, sometimes desperate life stories. Our annual general meeting was no different, with members being very clear how tough life is when life-enhancing services close down. Hampshire County Council’s news of further cuts of £90 million are likely to spell yet more misery for vulnerable people.
Facing both service closures and benefit reforms, people with mental health issues are entitled to feel beleaguered. Solent Mind’s snapshot in September, of the demand on us for help with benefits, reveals a picture of people too scared to open the front door, distressed, suicidal and without food for their children or money to feed the meter. Before deciding on their next round of cuts I wish politicians – local and national – could hear first-hand from those who are being asked to pay the price of austerity.