You can lead a horse to water…

…but you can’t make it drink!   Sometimes being endlessly patient is self defeating and self damaging, so today it’s going to be a bit different.  It’s hard to understand how not one member of the LGBT community in Monmouthshire could spare one hour last night to attend a consultation.   How can that be?   Monmouthshire is a desert for LGBT interests and services, and yesterday there were representatives from the police, Stonewall, THT, and others who had come together from some distances to listen and talk – but only to themselves apparently.    Getting information out is not easy in this situation, but it was got out to those who knew others who would have an interest, and it was on this blog, and on posters.  Communication is a problem when you have to rely on information being passed from one to another before an interest group can be brought together, but word of mouth can be quick and effective if the will is there.   Clearly something was lacking here, and that’s a pity.   People came together with good will, but how did they feel as they left,  after lengthy journeys and a couple of wasted hours ‘talking among themselves’, and then long journeys home late in the evening?  

But it’s not just this particular meeting, is it?   Every month there are Network and Forum meetings taking place for Mental Health Service Users and Carers – and which are structured to make it easy and comfortable for people who use services and want to improve them to talk with those who fund and provide services, and want to know how best to develop them.   From the conversations that take place outside of these meetings you would think there is a  real interest and need to support people getting together in this way and working together to iron out problems, and bring in useful changes.   And then you hold the meeting – with advance warning, agenda’s, refreshments, and repayment of travel costs, or organisation of free transport – and think yourself lucky if you have more than three attending!  Yes, it can be up to 15, and sometimes down to zero.   Inconsistency does nothing to raise other people’s opinions of service user involvement and interest, and only results in those who are making the effort to meet together losing their motivation.    As I said to someone yesterday, sometimes when you encourage people to come along, you would think from their reaction that you were offering them a miserable afternoon.   What is it about not being able to invest three hours of a month in helping to improve your life situation?   Why is it cool to talk disparagingly about services but do nothing to work positively to improve them?   The bid being put together for the Big Lottery grant could result, if successful, in one of the biggest funding injections for mental health in Monmouthshire for a long time.  It is well worth making the effort, and unwise to rely on the ideas of others who may not have your understanding and experience of the needs of the area.   If you don’t attend the discussions and meetings then you can’t have an influence on them the way you might like.  OK, this is probably enough said for now, but it is intended to be a ‘wake up’ call to anyone who wants to see their life situation improved, or that of those they care for, in whatever way, to start helping to do something about it, and not leave it to every one else.   Yes, we are glad to have the support of those who do come together for meetings, and especially to the regulars who always try to give a hand, but just how many service users and carers are there in Monmouthshire – quite a few more that our best ever attendance of 18, I think?     

So, if you have LGBT interests and did not know of the meeting last night, or just couldn’t make it, and would still like to get something going now, then please contact THT on the phone number provided in this blog – lower down the page.   And if you would like to get more involved in User and Carer services, then come along to the next Network and Forum (Sept 26th at 1pm in Usk), or ask for a copy of the newsletter CONCUR (ring 01291-673728) or keep an eye on this blog for updating information and new links.   If you need help with transport, then ask and we will do our best to help.  We want to meet up with you, and hear what you have to say.



One Response to “You can lead a horse to water…”

  1. DJ Says:

    Owch! Say it as it is! I agree you have a point. If people don’t come to meetings their points of view will not be heard. It was not that long ago that service users were not involved in the the planning of the services they used. I am not 100% sure when the Network Forum started but it was started because service users/carers stood up and said “We have a voice and we want a say in what is happening in our lives”. We now have people sitting on interview panels, attend most of the important meetings which decide how the service will be shaped, have a great resource room and most importantly have a voice which is being listened to. If we have seen this much change in a few years think what can happen in the future.

    Everyone agrees that MH services can be better but are also a lot better than they have been. By setting up forums (mental health or LGBT) the voice of the people will get louder and may well help to reduce the stigma surrounding us. The more we stand up and support each other the better things can become. It is great that there are regulars which turn up month after month but do you know what they are saying is what you are thinking? You may have an idea that noone has thought of which could lead to a great improvement in services for everyone.

    Yes I know that not everyone is able to attend meetings and discussions but if that is the case you can always put your point of view onto this blog which in turn can be put to the people at the meetings. Or you could write it down and send it by post, but for those who can attend please remember it is only once a month for a few hours and in the grand scheme of things is really not that much. Many will use the services for a few weeks but many may use them for the rest of their lives so it really is very important to get your point of view across. Service users/carers, as far as I am concerned, are the experts here. They know what it is like to suffer mental health problems and they know the positive and negative parts of the system better than anyone else, so come on lets tell people how it is!

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