Voice of Mind, James Downs, blogs on the importance of speaking out on mental health in advance of the next assembly elections.
This year in May, Britain went to the polls to elect a new parliament in Westminster. That’s where I was one of ten Voices of Mind campaigning to get mental health on the agenda.
"Those we elect to power and who make decisions that affect our everyday lives need to hear about mental health."
I found it really personally empowering to speak in parliament, addressing the health secretary and others about my own experiences of struggling to access appropriate mental health support in Wales. Not only was it good for me, but I know that my story made a huge impact on a large number of very influential people, and that is the way things will change and services become more focussed on the needs of real people. Here in Wales, the assembly is responsible for health and social care, so we need to campaign and share our stories here too.
One thing about living with mental health problems is that they can be silencing. They can take away your voice and your sense of conviction about what you feel you need, and this means that the voice of those with lived experience often goes unheard. In the run up to the assembly elections, those we elect to power and who make decisions that affect our everyday lives need to hear about mental health. They need to hear that it is something their voters care about and that we won't settle for mental health services that are second rate compared to physical health.
At the front of this campaign has to be the stories of real people. I would encourage as many of Mind’s supporters in Wales to get in touch with their assembly members and candidates. Tell them what you think needs to be done, your stories, your experiences of good and bad care and ideas for better public health or education. The new assembly will be accountable to you and you have the right to let them know what you think.
One challenge I faced in my campaigning was that telling my story isn't easy. It often involved reliving your worst moments and the nerves of standing in front of others. Whilst your message can make a huge difference, it is important to look after yourself and make sure you have good support around you.
It can sometimes be hard for one person to change the whole system for the better, but we are stronger together.
That's why being part of Mind Cymru's movement ahead of the election is a really great way to help support positive change for better mental health.
Read about types of mental health problems
We'll fight your corner. We believe everyone with a mental health problem should be able to access excellent care and services. We also believe you should be treated fairly, positively and with respect.
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.