Perspectives on wellbeing: things our grandmothers knew
Posted Sunday 29 November 2009
The debate on wellbeing at the Mind conferences, 25 to 27 November, Brighton
On the face of it, there is a lot to be angry about when you think about wellbeing. The system is wrong – so wrong that it will take more unpicking than could be achieved in a bunch of generations.
Clinicians still firmly hold the power in the mental health system - a system which itself undermines empowerment, hope and recovery. Looking at the wider picture, we find a society, particularly in the UK, that is increasingly unequal (inequality, rather than poverty, being a key cause of poor wellbeing).
We have a world economy built on an unsustainable model of ever increasing consumption – a consumption that literally makes us sick. And all this supported by politicians and economists who measure people’s value purely in what they contribute to GDP - or so we were told by Peter Beresford, Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University, taking the ‘revolution’ line in the morning debate at the Mind conference.
But a much more dominant theme at the conference, at least for me, was hope. It’s true that things are not what they should be, but then things are not what they were either. We have heard from individuals involved in recruitment or peer support at their local health trusts.
We’ve heard from our own local Mind associations about wellbeing projects that are completely turning around services, and the lives of those who participate in them – both users and staff.
We have heard from people working in the Department of Health about their hopes and efforts to both improve mental health services and ensure wellbeing is taken seriously across government.
And we heard from cheery but thoughtful headteacher Anthony Seldon and three of his year 11 pupils about how they are teaching the next generation about gaining and maintaining their own personal wellbeing at Wellington College.
And a lot of wellbeing is really stuff our grandmothers knew – finding people to love, a place to belong, doing good to others, getting fresh air, exercise and enough sleep. Science is now catching up with our grandmothers.
Unravelling our political and economic world structures is a daunting tasks, but while we are tackling that, there’s lots of other things we can be doing that will have a profound effect on lives here and now.
So I guess I’m an old-fashioned believer in hope. Both that there is hope, and in the power of hope – that hope in itself can start to bring about change. Anger has its place, but I do think the more powerful, sustainable and persuasive fuel for changing the world will be hope. To quote Dr Seldon: "And that ladies and gentleman is not an impossible dream."
Sophie Corlett, Head of External Relations
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