Chief Executive Officer
I’m very lucky in what I do. I meet a lot of new people which can both be awkward and challenging but most of the time I meet truly inspiring people.
This year we have had key staff changes, an ever-growing waiting list and funding issues that are trickier than ever. We have been vocal, proposed solutions and have not always been heard. We have had lots of empty words and engaged in fairy-tale discussions, but with no real change.
People are suffering, people are dying
We are in the midst of a mental health crisis.
Advice about increasing exercise and self-care is not enough. I am not saying that these things don’t help, but we need to understand what it is about the way people live that makes so many emotionally unwell. I cannot be alone in finding the help available underwhelming, as though looking after one’s mental health is the same as looking after your physical health.
There also appears to be a lot of investment in training and sign-posting with no real commitment to the psychological engagement. Many people who suffer from poor mental health or traumas do actually reach out, and are ignored, fobbed off with medications, or put on unacceptable waiting lists. It’s not a case of people not seeking help; it’s a case of them not being heard, or being able to access appropriate support speedily.
With our waiting list continuing to grow (at worrying rates) and no further commitment from the North Cumbria CCG, we have had to make the regrettable decision to close our referrals in the North and West of the county. We will continue to deliver a service in these areas within our current waiting list and funding streams. However our future in North Cumbria is not looking bright. Spot purchase arrangements in the South are relatively stable. However, within the continual restructures and changing landscape of our statutory services anything can change.
So against significant barriers and disappointments, why do we do what we do?
Because clients tell us how counselling has led to an increased wellness; less anxiety; better relationships; trauma resolution; better boundaries, and increased assertiveness. The need for our service can’t be denied. Working within the third sector, some days are hard. But I will never cease to be a voice for those who need to find healthier and more successful ways of coping with life’s struggles and will continue to speak out on their behalf. I too would like to be less aware of suicide. And eating disorders. And self-harm.
Our staff and counsellors work incredibly hard to offer a professional and quality service . Our volunteers continue to support and champion us. Many thanks to our funders - great and small—they are our lifeblood. It is with their continued trust and financial support that we can deliver a life-changing (and life-saving) service.
The Board of Directors continues to provide me support and expertise to challenge and develop our service—as well as the courage and insight to step away if we are being ignored. Never a report without a special mention to Rod White who is stepping down from his role as chair this year. There will be some big boots needed to replace his integrity and exceptional leadership. And finally to the powers that be, I say people are starting to understand the betrayal. The eyes of future generations are on you, and it is only when a flexible, adaptable and properly funded system, engaging with the third sector, hears the voice of the people that things will really change.