Welcome back!!! A brand new year has rolled out it’s shiny uncertain face to be plastered in stockings, make-up and mayhem… It feels good to be alive… Did you miss me? (Ooh I felt like Courtney Love then, quick grab me a handful of prescription meds and a bottle of Champale).
Shortly before last years end, I was asked to take part in a photoshoot with the wonderful, Michael Goes Click photography. I jumped at the chance to work with this young talent for two reasons; 1, because Michael asked and he’s amazing, 2 – the shoot was designed to represent the hear no evil, see no evil, see evil concept relating to budget cuts effecting mental health service users in Derbyshire that are effectively cutting off a lifeline known as Derbyshire Voice. I’m sure that anyone reading this will either have suffered from the blight of mental illness or at the very least know someone who has. I’m sure that you also will know how debilitating whatever form it takes, can be to an individual as well as those around them and that institutions designed to support those affected are currently being badly hit by the recession as are many charitable and third sector institutions. This is is further exasperated by local governing bodies who slash budgets in favour of pet projects and frivolous spending options
Today I’m talking to Catherine Ingram (C), chief executive of Derbyshire Voice and Michael Hill (M) of Michael Goes Click photography about exactly what is happening up north and behind closed council doors…
Dis) The Derbyshire Voice provides a life line to mental health service users in the community. How is its survival being threatened?
(C) The charity is funded by 4 partner NHS and local authority organisations. The fact that one funder wishes to leave this partnership is de-stabalising and we wanted to create a very public awareness as a reminder of how important the charity is to people. If the money is taken away I will have to make some hard decisions but it will inevitably mean that we can support less people from the City and that the council can do anything to their mental health services without involving or consulting us. The council employ the social workers who section people under the Mental Health Act and our work with them to improve the situation will inevitably have to stop which means even less support for people detained against their will. Mental heath is the only area of “care” where you can receive treatment against your will and its a terrifying experience for many who can just not naturally follow white male western defined standards of “normality”.
Dis) You’ve been running a number of peaceful protests in the city – how has the public responded to these events?
The public has been amazing!!!! We have been so touched by the support from the public and have been amazed by the level of support we have received. Ive never been on a demonstration where strangers have believe in the cause so much they have taken up a placard and walked the streets with us! The large mental health charities and the media bang on about this huge stigma there is about mental ill health but in reality we question if that is the reality – what better way to control a group of people than spread the myth that everyone thinks they are “mad, bad and dangerous” ? Its something to reflect upon! The greatest realisation we had after speaking to the public was that nearly everyone has had their lives touched personally by mental health and that they had a particularly awful treatment or hadnt been able to receive any help at all – this is what makes us determined to carry on our work.
Dis) Michael, you had some very clear themes that ran through the shoot but before we discuss these, what was your hope for these images?
(M) My general hopes for the images would be that they would communicate a level of anger, while still maintaining being trapped, and masked. There had to be a satirical undertone to the photos as well (considering the circumstances under which the money has been taken from Derbyshire Voice, I chose the Guy Fawkes mask for this as it already has a pre-existing meaning).
Dis) symbols of political revolution, death as well as the infamous see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil maxim were clearly defined within the context of the images produced. Why did you choose to utilise this particular set of themes?
(M) I was given a lot of leeway with what the pictures were actually supposed to be – I changed the topic in my pictures from “hear no evil, Speak no evil, see no evil” to “Hear No Evil, Speak no evil, see evil” as it seemed to fit more with the situation –
Hear no evil – people with mental health problems in Derby face losing the only service that listen.
Speak no evil – we were being stopped at every turn trying to arrange the protest, so in the end we just went and did it.
(Also, the name of the campaign was “No Voice, No Hope”, so this fitted in nicely).
See evil – The closure of such an important service, and the lack of care and support from the council / social services etc. Seeing the council waste £32m on a renovation that wasn’t even needed.
(C) I gave Michael the brief – “Speak your truth even if your voice shakes” and he ran with it and interpreted it in his own wonderful way! I believe that there are many ways and mediums to communicate our message and that visual communication is often more affective than verbal diatribes – images have a power that often exceed words and have an ambiguity that can be personally interpreted by the viewer and stimulate a reaction in a very different way. The images will be printed in our next magazine and I am so proud and thankful for the two creative people that spent time and energy to work with us to achieve this.
Dis) Catherine, can you explain a little more about the importance of DV and what it’s continued future means to mental health service users in the area?
(C) Derbyshire Voice is more important to people than we realised! Almost anyone that has sought mental health support or received treatment against their will in a psychiatric unit will tell you that the services are abusive and often very damaging. I was personally treated against my will and still live with the trauma of that experience. We try to work in partnership with those who run services to help them to understand the support people need and to improve the quality of what they provide so that it helps rather than damages people. As the recession hits mental ill health and emotional distress are on the rise yet the services available are being cut at the time more people need them – we believe that the work we do is more important than it has ever been.
Dis) How have Derbyshire council responded to the wave of protests in the area – have they discussed the issues surrounding the budget cuts and provided any plausible reasons for these cuts to be made?
(C) Derby City council have not yet responded to any of my communications! We have however secured over 4000 signatures on our petition and the council must now have a debate about Derbyshire Voice on the 30th January. This is only the second time ever that a group has achieved this and I am hoping that the strength of feeling will go some way to make the council realise that we are important and they must continue to invest. I dont believe the proposal has been thought through as they dont even have our name correct in their budget proposal report and describe as a youth service!
Dis) Have they addressed the issues of funding related to their new build council house costing them an estimated 30 million pounds?
(C) No the issues relating to their 30 million quids council offices have not been addressed – they are now planning a velodrome for the city!
(M) The main justification for the cost of the council houses was a “Hydro Power Plant” that uses the river on the other side of the building, and the rental space they now had in there. “Modernizing” the site seemed to be the key to making their money back. But I haven’t heard anything else.
Dis) is there anything our readers can do?
(C) Im sure many of your readers have already helped by signing the petition (and thank you heaps Bristol lovelies!) but if people want to offer more support they can write to the council leader (Paul Bayliss) or any of the councillors prior to the meeting on the 30th January to express their support for Derbyshire Voice and the importance of mental health funding at this difficult time.
Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me and for giving me the opportunity to work on this project with you guys, I hope we can help and bring as much attention to this issue as possible. And to anyone reading this, please write in to Councillor Bayliss and make your opinion count!!!
The Derby County Council website is as follows: http://www.derby.gov.uk/
For more information regarding Derbyshire Voice, the work that they do and for regular updates please visit:
Bile and Bruises