Sunday, 8 November 2015

A week of fireworks, advocates for mental health equality and a good Samaritan taxi driver

The House in Horwich sits in a small community of just 6 houses. Last night it was our community bonfire celebration. It’s an evening I don’t like to miss if at all possible. I really enjoy spending the afternoon helping our neighbours children (and young people these days), and some of my grandchildren, building the bonfire, erecting the shelters in the orchard and generally getting excited about the evening. This year, we were a little short of wood, but as it turned out, it was a good fire anyway. As darkness arrives, the fire is lit, our neighbour Simon, a professional chef, starts cooking, the wine is opened and later, the fireworks are set off. It was a wonderful evening, with good company, food, conversation and friendship. 

The House in Scotland bonfire celebrations were last Thursday. I missed those as I was travelling to Birmingham on Thursday evening. The train journey was however, literally illuminated by fireworks being set off all along the route. My good feeling was shattered when on arrival at the renovated Birmingham New Street station I found that the taxi drivers were on strike. Unbelievably, just as despair was beginning set in, Ahmed, complete with Black Cab, arrived and asked if could help.

We set off towards the hotel, which was located right in the middle of the University campus, and Ahmed kept up a steady narrative about the history of Birmingham, and when he found out I was a nurse, explained what the 6 Cs was really about – he loved the notion of a compassionate nurse. Our engaging conversation was brought to a halt as we turned into Edgbaston Road to find it filled with thousands of students all intent on getting to the University bonfire celebrations. The delay caused by the sheer number of people doubled the cost of the taxi fare! But I got there, albeit some 4 hours after leaving Manchester – many, many thanks for your help Ahmed!

I lay in bed the following morning and listened to 'Old Joe' ring out the time. The clock tower is 100 meters tall and over 100 years old. Its truly a magnificent centre piece to the University campus. I was there to do an early morning PhD Viva - early morning as the other External Examiner was in Australia and participating via Skype. The time difference was 11 hours – our morning, his evening. The candidate was someone I had met on a plane in 2014, we were both on our way back from a mental health nursing conference, held in Tallinn.

He made a great defence of his thesis and the recommendation was that he be awarded his PhD. My colleague from Australia and I wished him well. Although his study focused on peoples engagement with mental health services, his work absolutely resonated with the emergent themes from the recently published 5 Year Forward View Mental Health Review Taskforce. These themes were: prevention (and stigma); access (and choice); quality (and experience); with an overriding lack of parity between the way physical and mental health care services are funded and provided. 

These were themes I had explored in presenting a paper at the Future of Mental Health Services conference held at our University last Tuesday. I was very pleased to be able to share the stage with Norman Lamb MP, the Liberal Party spokesperson for Health. He told a very powerful story that drew both on his own experience of being in a family with a member who lived with mental health challenges, and his work as member of the previous UK coalition government. Last week he joined 200 other high profile public figures in leading a campaign, ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review, for equality of resources for the provision of mental health care services. If you want to also support the campaign, you can through this link. As this year’s Guy Fawkes celebrations come to an end, remember, signing the petition is always going to be better than blowing up the Houses of Parliament.