Mind Your Mental Health: From pressure group to leaders in caring for the mentally ill
13:01 29 February 2016
The Recorder has launched Mind Your Mental Health, a major awareness campaign with charity Havering Mind, which will run throughout 2016. This week news editor Emma Lake looks at the history of Havering Mind
Havering Mind has been improving the mental wellbeing of its community for more than 50 years.
Formed by volunteers in 1965, during its early years members were focused on pressurising authorities to improve conditions for those with mental health problems.
In 1965 it became a registered charity – The Havering Association for Mental Health – affiliated with national charity Mind.
To begin with the charity’s activities were limited to small group sessions. But in 1974 the Albert Road Drop-Ins began.
In 1974 drop-in sessions were a revolutionary scheme, giving those with mental health problems a safe environment to socialise with people with similar experiences.
Terry Kenney, Havering Mind chairman between 1986 and 2003, said: “Mental health was treated really badly in those days. There was a terrible level of stigma and misunderstanding. We sought to change this.
“We planned a strategy of how to turn the charity into what it is today and make it financially secure to support the people of Havering that needed us.
“The services that we built up were essential to people’s wellbeing. It got them out of the house, even if it was just to come here to the lodge, sit in the corner and not talk.
Quotes from service users
“I have found Mind is very supportive and provides me with a sense of the right direction.”
“I struggled to leave the house before going to Mind. At Mind you are accepted. I don’t feel comfortable anywhere else.”
“I started attending Havering Mind just because I heard they had a choir. Singing helps me forget my problems. The choir has enabled me to meet new people and has built my confidence back up.”
“My daughter has had problems with mental health issues and had no one else she could turn to, see or visit until a friend told her about Mind. The support she has had has helped her to leave the house and to walk down the road on her own.”
“Havering Mind has been my guiding light and my anchor for many years.”
“They were not questioned, no one judged them or forced them into doing anything. They could just be here, with other people.”
During the 1980s Havering Mind moved to its current headquarters – Harrow Lodge House, Harrow Lodge Park, Hornchurch, and looked to secure funding and expand the services it could offer – a difficult task when mental health was low on the political agenda.
It wasn’t until 1994 that serious changes could be made after funding for a development officer and paid staff was secured.
By this time the drop-in sessions were so popular that the charity was struggling to meet demand, so it opened new groups in Rainham and Harold Hill.
Since the 1990s groups offered by Havering Mind have included women’s, life skills, over 65s, carers, walking, poetry and pottery.
In its 50 years it has supported thousands of people aged from 10 to 94.
Vanessa Bennett, who became CEO in 2007, said: “There have been many changes and developments to the organisation over its 50 year life, but some things have remained the same throughout.
“Our success has always been down to our best asset our people-staff, volunteers and supporters.
“We have always ensured that individuals with direct experience of mental health issues and their carers get their voices heard and listened to.
“During the last year Havering Mind has seen many changes including a large reduction in our income which has affected the services we are able to offer.
“With the support and encouragement from our community we have managed to turn this in many ways to a positive .
“We have taken time to pause and reflect, remember the strengths of the organisation and sharpen our focus for the future. Our focus is to support and educate the community and we won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect.”
On Wednesday Havering Mind held an open day to show off the services it offers. If you would like to find out more call 01708457040 or visit haveringmind.org.uk