When I heard about this project, I was keen to be involved, because I believe that the voluntary sector plays a vital and undervalued role in crisis care.
A few years ago I retired from my job with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust’s User Involvement team. Since that time, I have continued my involvement with local Service User organisations, and I also attend local mental health commissioning and stakeholder meetings as a Service User representative – meetings which include representation of both statutory and voluntary sector organisations.
I have lived in Birmingham since 1980. I grew up in three countries: the US, Germany and the UK. I studied psychology at Oxford, during which time I was referred to mental health services because of anxiety and depression. This also led to my becoming involved in the Service User movement of the 1960s/70s – a time when the term “Service User” did not exist, and we were called mental patients! I was active for some time in a London group called Community Organisation for Psychiatric Emergencies, or COPE, which ran a helpline and a crisis respite house. We were one of a number of organisations exploring alternatives to conventional psychiatry. I believe the work we were doing had an influence on the much greater focus we have today on taking lived experience seriously.
Another aspect of my job with Birmingham and Solihull Trust was to help set up a Service User Network for the Community Personality Disorder Service. I also trained as a Service User Trainer for the Personality Disorder Knowledge and Understanding Framework project, and I co-deliver training to staff who work in a variety of statutory and voluntary sector posts.
Besides mental health work, my main interest is traditional folk and world music, and song writing.