Hello – I’m Kate McDonnell and I’m the new chair of Bath Mind.
I want to start by paying a tribute to my predecessor, Richard Ellis. He has been a trustee and chair of Bath Mind for many years, contributing ideas, leadership, ensuring rigorous governance. So, a huge thanks from all of us to him – and I’m delighted to say he’s going to carry on with us as a trustee.
I’ve been a trustee since 2014. Like everyone here though – my connection with Bath Mind is personal. I’ve self-harmed for nearly 30 years, but thought that the pain I felt was my fault. It turns out that I had bipolar disorder, which was only diagnosed a couple of years ago. I naturally became very interested in mental health and came to Bath Mind to volunteer as a designer. And what I found here was an amazing, dedicated group of people who support people just like me.
For mental health, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, this is the best of times and the worst of times. The best – because mental health has the highest political and social profile it has had in years. It’s been the anti-Europe issue if you will – and united the political parties! Norman Lamb, Alan Milburn and Stephen Dorrell came together a few weeks ago to state that mental health needs greater support and priority, to no longer be the Cinderella of health services.
In terms of media and the cultural sphere – we are finally getting to a place where celebrities, athletes and others – are openly speaking about their mental health issues. This is a HUGE leap forward from a few years ago, when anything to do with mental health was considered taboo, and to be brushed under the carpet. Getting the message that mental health is not something you need to be ashamed of – and can receive support for – is a hugely important message – especially for younger people and vulnerable groups.
As part of Bath Mind, we are all responsible for helping change the profile and attitudes towards mental health. It’s organisations like ours that have helped to challenge prejudice, support people’s needs, increase public understanding about mental health. Well done us!
But the challenges. Whilst we’re small but mighty, we have to prioritise what we do. We now know what we’re going to do over the next five years with the launch of our new strategic plan. It’s not news that the funding situation out there is tough, and these are going to be challenging financial times for all small organisations. We’re all going to be working hard to find new sources of income so that we can achieve our goals.
But you know what… I’m confident about our future. And my confidence is down to the dedication, support and hard work of all of you. Everyone at Bath Mind has made a positive difference to mental health. I’m quite overwhelmed when I think about the team at the office, the supporters, volunteers, donors, trustees – everyone who gives their time, support, dedication, inspiration, creativity… to Bath Mind. Thank you so much – together we help create better mental health for people in Bath & North East Somerset.