Welcome to my new Mind BLMK blog.

The views expressed in these posts are mine and not always those of Mind BLMK (but mostly they are). 

I am Steve and work for Mind BLMK. I've been working in mental health services locally for over 20 years and have seen many changes over that time. I started just after the introduction of the Community Care Act, where the big institutions were closing down and people were being supported in communities, rather than being isolated out of town. Since then, I have watched as mental health comes and goes as a priority - some great stuff has happened and many, many times where people have been let down. I'm still here, hoping to make a difference and improve the lives of people who experience mental ill health. 

This will be a regular post, with news, views, ideas and comment about everything to do with mental health, wellbeing and what Mind BLMK is up to across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes. 

The idea is that it will have a local focus, but might also include national and international news, where that has an impact on local people. 

Mental health is everywhere at the moment - from the royals 'Heads Together' campaign to the government suggesting that anxiety isn't a 'real disability', the newspapers, telly and web are full of people talking about it. This is a great sign - having been under the carpet for many years, it's great to see that more and more focus is being placed on this subject. With 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health issue each year, it is important that we do talk about this stuff. 

Over the past few months, we have also seen Mind BLMK become more visible. With our Dunstable group holding market stalls, Ampthill having their annual Christmas Tree at the festival and everyone getting involved with Time to Talk Day, our local communities are increasingly able to see who we are and what we do.

There is also lots happening in other areas locally. Our local NHS inpatient unit, Weller Wing (see picture above) is closing, with this provision being moved to Houghton Regis. This has caused much discussion - whilst the buildings in Houghton Regis are much more suitable, it is 20 miles away from Bedford, meaning a long journey for many. East London Foundation Trust (the local NHS provider) will be working to try and make sure this can work, but many people would prefer to see somewhere closer.

In the government nationally we hear much about 'mental health is very important' and 'mental health is a priority'. And then we hear someone in the government say that mental health issues aren't a 'real' disability. It's confusing to hear such different messages and when combined with some of the challenges around cuts to benefits, reduction in spending for local authorities, stories of people going hundreds of miles because there aren't any specialist hospital beds, I do sometimes wonder whether it is actually a priority, or simply something that people know needs to be supported more, but without any real will to do so. 

So all in all, an interesting time to be involved in the mental health world. There isn't anywhere I would rather work and it isn't ever dull. I hope that this blog can keep you updated with some ideas, some information, some news and some views - your comments would be very welcome. We need to start the conversations and here would be a great place to do so. 

Till next time.....