On Tuesday 19 September, four members of the Healthy Minds Forum travelled to the LIFE Centre in Bradford to have their voices heard by key West Yorkshire NHS decision-makers.
Link participant Paul and Healthy Minds Volunteer Suzanne bravely shared their personal experiences, presenting to members of the West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (WYICB) at the mental health engagement session that preceded the WYICB AGM and board meeting.
Supported by Georgia (Membership & Engagement Coordinator) and Claire (Healthy Minds Forum Volunteer), Paul and Suzanne were able to take a stand and reveal their lived realities to people in power.
We want to celebrate and congratulate Paul and Suzanne for this incredible achievement. It takes huge strength to journey to a different place, be confronted with a busy venue filled with strangers, and present to people in positions of power about deeply personal experiences. As Paul put it in his speech:
“If anyone had told me that I would be stood in front of such an influential group of people making a speech, I would have said that they’re totally mad!”
Despite the challenge of the heightened environment, Paul and Suzanne articulated their messages with dignity, creativity and desire for change.
The engagement session was made up of three tables – each table with two people from places across West Yorkshire sharing their lived experiences on a particular issue regarding mental health services. These included experiences of lack of support options, mental health inequalities, communication barriers, and young people’s access to services. The speakers were joined at the tables by board members of the West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board, who listened to speeches from each of the speakers, followed by group discussions to unpack some of the key issues.
Paul and Suzanne spoke on different topics, but shared a determination to use their lived experiences to communicate the challenges many people face when trying to access mental health care:
Opportunity to speak at the event was found through West Yorkshire Voice, a network of individuals and groups working to ‘ensure the people’s voice is at the heart of health and care decision making in West Yorkshire’. As Healthy Minds is a West Yorkshire Voice member, the opportunity was advertised by Georgia through the Healthy Minds Forum. The achievement of those who attended the ICB event is a testament to the influence that our Forum can have when we come together as a collective. The connections forming as a result of the work of the Forum further drive the group’s collaborative effort towards positive change to Calderdale’s mental health.
The accomplishment also highlighted the power of solidarity. The way the group supported each other in all aspects of the process was key to their success. Being present with one another and listening to what others might need created a culture of support amongst the group, allowing them to thrive in the face of what could feel like an intimidating environment.
“It was a privilege to offer Paul and Suzanne my support and I am super proud of both of them for their bravery in opening up to tell their stories. It was such a powerful and moving experience for their voices to be heard like this. Afterwards we chatted with other ICB board members about the work of Healthy Minds, in particular the Forum, for which I am part of the volunteer team. Super proud to say that some of these new connections are now planning on coming to future Forum meetings to get more involved with what we do.” - Claire, Healthy Minds Forum Volunteer
The Healthy Minds Forum normally meets every last Wednesday of the month at the Industrial Museum in Halifax. You can find out lots more about the group on the online Forum hub, or get in touch with Georgia: email@example.com to find out more or to be added to the Forum network list.
The West Yorskhire Integrated Care Board is the governing body for the health and care partnership, made up of partners from across the NHS, local government and voluntary, social enterprise and community sectors. The partnership plan and deliver health and care services across West Yorkshire. The full video recording of the WYICB meeting on the 19th September can be found here.