Tom from our Policy and Campaigns team blogs about 'Postcards from Somewhere' and the next phase of our Life Support campaign.
Back in January, to kick off our new Life Support campaign, we launched Postcards from Somewhere – asking you to share the places in your area that make you feel happier, safer, content, or reflective.
The response was incredible - over 2,000 of you created postcards, and the photos and stories they contained were beautiful. I urge you take a look and, if you haven’t already, add your own postcard. They offer a glimpse into people’s lives, and the places, people and organisations that help them to keep going when times are tough, or live life to the full during happier times.
Some clear themes emerged from the postcards:
It was obvious how important the idea of ‘home’ is, both in terms of place but also the family and friends it brings to mind:
"I moved to London over 18 months ago, which makes going back to my childhood home in Cumbria even more special. As a teenager, when I couldn't drive or afford to travel far, it felt like a penitentiary, but now being there, I feel more free. I can get the peace and quiet I crave when I'm in the city, be it through walking my dog or going for a drive. And I can have truly honest conversations about my mental health, with my mum in particular."
"If I'm ever feeling a bit down, I know that going back home and having all my family and friends around me is what's going to make me feel better. I find in my darkest days of depression that having people around me who loved and cared for me was the best place I could be, and for that I am forever grateful to all those individuals."
A huge number of people found peace away from their homes – outside in the woods, in the park or on the beach:
Jessica - Pine woods
"I usually take my camera and try to capture all the beauty in nature. Sometimes in the right light it can look like a fairytale."
Karen - Walney Beach
"Whatever the weather, it looks so beautiful, vast and powerful it reminds me I'm just a small cog in this big world which helps when things feel big & unmanageable."
Local groups and services
Many people weren’t able to get all the support they needed from the people and places already in their lives, and needed to turn to local groups and services to help them out:
Anonymous - St Aldate's Church Toddler Group
"I suffered post-natal depression after the traumatic birth of my son. As well as family support I also found support and new friends at this group. It was a kind, warm and welcoming environment which was just what I needed, as I struggled with being a first time mother. The friends I made there almost four years ago are still friends to this day."
Margaret - The Sunshine and Showers Support Group
"I started this group two years ago and it has grown from five people to 20. We come together to meet, socialise, listen to speakers, do art, write poetry, chat and have a cuppa. But most of all it is a space to be with people who understand our depression without judgment and with love, because they have it too, so we don't have to put on a face, just be ourselves, which is incredibly relaxing and healing."
Most of the postcards we received were positive – they spoke lovingly about the places and people that meant the most to you. However, they also highlighted that life can be difficult for all of us at times. We’re affected by where we live, the day-to-day support we rely on and the community around us.
For those of us living with a mental health problem, life can be even more challenging. Staying well and living a full life depends on much more than the therapies and treatments available through mental health services.
People with mental health problems are much more likely to also experience problems with debt, benefits, housing and social isolation. If the right sort of support isn’t available for people experiencing these issues, they can spiral out of control and have a devastating impact on people’s health.
Next week, we’re launching the next phase of our Life Support campaign – calling on all local areas to make sure people with mental health problems get the support they need in their homes and communities to overcome these sort of challenges.
We hope that you’ll get behind this campaign, and help convince decision makers in your area to prioritise this support, so that people with mental health problems are able to stay well and live a full life. Look out on Monday for how you can get involved.