Kira Withers-Jones is a designer from Pontypridd who also has a history of mental ill health. As a volunteer for the mental health charity Gofal, Kira blogs about her experience in creating a video to educate newly elected Assembly Members on the issues facing people like her.
By Kira Withers-Jones
I was really pleased when Gofal asked me to take part in a project to put together a short film that would be sent to the new Assembly Members in the Senedd. I can understand how easy it is for issues such as mental health to be missed when there’s so much for these new AMs to get their teeth into. But all of us that were involved believe that it’s actually a really big subject — mental ill health affects 1 in 4 of us –that touches on many different policy areas.
Of course mental health comes into health care –- early access to care, types of treatment, etc. But people forget that those suffering with mental ill health also can have trouble getting or keeping employment or accessing appropriate housing.
First, we discussed the issues that mattered to us. I spoke about how I was fed up with people making jokes about mental health. For some reason it seems ok to call us “loonies” or to joke about someone being so nuts they should be locked up! This is really offensive to me, yet it’s something that we hear every day.
We also talked about how difficult or easy we found getting help for our problems. Sometimes people are fobbed off by GPs or just given anti-depressants without a referral to an expert in talking treatments. We believe that most people would recover better if they were able to see a community psychiatric nurse and be referred to a counsellor or therapist, as well as taking whatever medication may be appropriate.
In my case, it wasn’t until I was given a combination of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs, plus anxiety management classes and various talking therapies, that I started to properly manage my condition and feel in charge of my life again.
Finally, we discussed the difficulties with housing. I’ve been lucky enough not to experience this. I was amazed to hear how mental health sufferers often experienced homelessness or problems accessing the right help and advice. It seems obvious now. How can someone who is in the middle of a severe depressive attack do seemingly mundane things, such as phone the electricity company to get the power turned on, or challenge an incorrect bill? Much more support and advice is required.
It was a great idea to create a film expressing what we thought. I’m sure the AMs get sent numerous letters and e-mails every day. The film only lasted for three minutes making it easy for the AMs to watch. It also didn’t take too long to make.
After brainstorming in the morning, we spent about 30 minutes each recording our thoughts to the camera. This took a few attempts as we forgot what we were going to say, or someone walked past, but it was actually a lot quicker than I’d expected.
I feel proud to be part of such a positive and pro-active attempt to ensure that suffers of mental ill health get the treatment that they deserve.
Watch the video on Gofal’s website.
Have you used a video to campaign for a cause?