Volunteering opportunities: Kindness-By-Post Student Champions

We are currently recruiting for student volunteers to join our team of Kindness-by-Post Champions. 

The Mental Health Collective’s Kindness-by-Post project enables strangers to exchange homemade cards with messages of goodwill, kindness and encouragement at difficult moments in the year.  It works like a great big secret santa, for messages of goodwill.  We ran this scheme for the first time for Valentine’s Day 2019, and saw hundreds of beautiful cards criss-crossing the country with the most incredible, lovely messages.

Our vision is to create a new, nationwide tradition where strangers can exchange messages of kindness every Valentine’s Day, as well as at other difficult times of year that are nominated by our community. People who feel they are falling apart often feel alone. Through Kindness-by-Post, we want people to have opportunity to turn a difficult time into a moment to connect with others.

The first term of the academic year can be a difficult time for students, so this autumn we are planning a “First Term Encouragement” exchange, aimed at university students in London and Liverpool. The Kindness-by-Post Student Champions will play a key role in helping us run this exchange, and in our broader work to develop and expand the Kindness-by-Post programme.

This volunteer role involves:

  • Helping test our new Kindness-by-Post registration system
  • Participating and giving feedback to help us improve the design of the programme
  • Promoting Kindness-by-Post and inviting friends, fellow students, and others to take part
  • Helping us identify appropriate moments in the year for Kindness-by-Post exchanges
  • Being part of our team to make Kindness-by-Post a positive movement for hope
  • Other tasks and opportunities that may arise

The Student Champion role can be done remotely, with occasional face-to-face meetings in central London or Liverpool.  Time required will fluctuate (with more activity during Kindness-by-Post exchanges), and Student Champions can pause or stop their engagement at any time.  We anticipate that Student Champions will take part in a variety of short activities, and that the average time commitment will total no more than a few hours each month. Activities might include: 

  • Video calls and phone calls
  • Emails and desk-based tasks
  • Making and sending cards
  • Social media engagement and outreach
  • Occasional face to face meetings (in either London or Liverpool)

The role would suit anyone wanting to gain work experience in the not-for-profit sector, and who shares our passion for helping people find new ways of coming together to improve mental health. 

To apply please complete a short application form by 25th July 2019.

Mental Health Collective’s Media Manager, Cal Strode, gives evidence in Parliament

It was an incredibly proud moment yesterday, watching Cal Strode, Mental Health Collective’s Media Manager, give evidence in Parliament to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration. The committee was chaired by Chuka Umunna MP, and includes Wera Hobhouse MP and Dr Paul Williams MP.

Cal gave evidence from our report, co-authored with 34 young people, “There are No #PhoneZombies: Thinking for ourselves about mobile phones and mental health”. He pressed parliamentarians to ensure that the algorithms that lie behind social media are regulated so that they foster connections between people, rather than artificially inflaming polarisation and conflict. With a message of hope and highlighting opportunities to bridge generational divides, Cal argued that we can take back the impetus and make our own decisions about where we want to go with this technology next.

Mental Health Collective Fellows, Kate King and Steve Gilbert, recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Kate King FMHC MBE
Steve Gilbert FMHC OBE

We are absolutely bursting with pride to announce that two of Mental Health Collective’s Fellows, Kate King FMHC and Steve Gilbert FMHC, have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to mental health and mental health legislative reform.

Steve and Kate are inspirational figures in the mental health world, who draw on their lived experience to advise policymakers and organisations on how they can improve outcomes in mental health. They played pivotal roles in the recent Mental Health Act Review which calls for greater dignity, choice and respect for those held under section.

Kate said: “I was stunned to be nominated:  secure ward to MBE in 10 years! However, I know that I was only able to work effectively for the Review because so many people with lived experience contributed either directly or indirectly, and so many continue to work to give a voice to those with living with mental health disabilities: they truly deserve our honour and respect and thanks.”

Steve said:   “This is one of the most amazing things to happen in my life and I am grinning from ear to ear. I am so thankful to everyone who has supported me over the past 10+ years, both in terms of my mental illness and the work that I do. It has helped me more than you will ever know.  I hope that these three small letters will help me create more opportunities for change, and to be able to continue fighting to ensure people living with a mental illness get the care and support they need.” 

We are beyond thrilled that the honour of Steve and Kate has been recognised. Massive congratulations to them both!

Work experience opportunities for 14, 15 and 16 year olds in North London

The Mental Health Collective is looking for 14, 15 and 16 year olds who live in striking distance of Crouch End (North London), and would like to get some work experience in our non-profit mental health organisation.

The work experience sessions will happen on Sundays, late afternoon, in March and early April.  We’ve designed these roles so they meet the volunteering criterion for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme – but they would be good for anyone who wants to have fun and get some work experience. 

The project you’ll be working on is called “PhoneZombies!” – it’s about mental health, mobile phones and moral panic.  Are mobile phones disconnecting us from each other, zoning us out and damaging our mental health?  Are we turning into some kind of phone zombies?  Or is this a moral panic – like in the 1950s when people thought that rock and roll music was poisoning teenagers brains?

You could volunteer either on your own or with friends, and join one of three teams:

1. Film making team
This team will make some zombie movies about people on their phones!  We need people to act in and make the films, and then we are going to have a film premiere on Sunday 31st March at the Crouch End Picture House – on a proper big cinema screen.

2. Research team
This team will help get to the bottom of what’s really going on with mobile phones and mental health.  You’ll get involved in real, on-the-ground research to help us figure out the key questions, write a report that will be published on the Mental Health , and be acknowledged as an author.

3. Marketing and Communications team
This team will lead on promoting the films and research report so they reach the widest possible audience – getting people along to the launch event at the cinema and share materials online.  Together, we will play an April Fools joke that is the crescendo for this project. 

We’ll do our planning sessions at the Highgate Cricket and Lawn Tennis club, off Park Road – just next to Highgate Wood school (W7 bus, nearest tube is Highgate).

If you would like some work experience with the Mental Health Collective and join one of our teams, please register here.

Key dates
Sunday 3rd March, 4pm – 5:30pm.
Highgate Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.

Sunday 10th March, 4pm – 5:30pm.
Highgate Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.

Sunday 17th March, 4pm – 5:30pm.
Highgate Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.

Sunday 24th March, 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Highgate Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.

Sunday 31st March, 11:00am – 12:00.
Film Premiere and Research Launch, Crouch End Picturehouse, Screen 4.

Monday 1st April (morning).
April Fools joke is played (no physical meeting).

Sunday 7th April (late afternoon)
Evaluation and wrap party. Location tbc.

Very positive evaluation for Living Advent Calendar

Opening up the survey results with feedback on your own projects is always a slighting anxiety inducing experience. But in all my time as a researcher, I can’t remember a more lovely surprise than when I opened up the file to see what participants thought of our Living Advent Calendar project.

The project gets volunteers from 24 houses and hubs in the local community to illuminate their windows with festive decorations in December. One window is ‘opened’ each day from the 1st to the 24th December and remains illuminated until 12th night.

Totaling up feedback from the first four years of the project (2015-2018), 89% of participants gave the Living Advent Calendar the maximum rating for its overall success, with no individual rating it as neutral or negative. 85% of respondents gave the project the maximum positive rating in terms of their own experience, with no individual rating it as neutral or negative for them personally. Whilst this evaluation was modest in its scope, it’s hard not to conclude that the Living Advent Calendar as been a resounding success. Even with the most temperate scholarly attitude, it’s hard to interpret this data as suggesting anything else.

Qualitative quotes describe the joy that the calendar has brought, and how valuable it has been for bringing people together. The most common recurring word to describe the project was “lovely”:

“Obsessed with it… being able to take part changes how I feel about the whole area”

“It’s so lovely…to have a heartwarming experience walking around this area after dark, especially given the reports of crime”

“Such a magical way to bring the community together!”

“Really enjoyed getting to know neighbours”

“Makes the neighbourhood feel more accessible and gives it a warm personality”

The calendar was featured as a case study by the Eden Project, and has inspired similar projects in Manchester, Walthamstow, Weston-Super-Mare, Norwich and Somerset.  

You can download the full data set here.

Fellows of the Mental Health Collective

This New Years Day, we are delighted to recognise the following people as Fellows of the Mental Health Collective:

Claire Barcham FMHC 
Andy Bell FMHC 
Mark Brown FMHC 

Dave Chawner FMHC 
Samantha Child FMHC 
Paul Crawford FMHC 
Anthony Deery FMHC 
Anselm Eldergill FMHC 
Alex Evans FMHC 
Kim Forrester FMHC 
Steve Gilbert FMHC 
Richard Grange FMHC 
Raf Hamaizia FMHC 
Sarah Hughes FMHC 
Seth Hunter FMHC 
Kate King FMHC 
Hannah Lewis FMHC 
Karen Linde FMHC 
Millie Macdonald FMHC 
Chris Naylor FMHC 
Chris O’Sullivan FMHC 
Russell Razzaque FMHC 
Vicky Romback FMHC 
Cal Strode FMHC 
Tutiette Thomas FMHC
Nick Webb FMHC 

Simon Wessely FMHC

“How to Get Through The Night” – A new self-help resource

This Friday will be the longest night of the year.  On 21st December there will be a whole 16 hours and 11 minutes between sunset and sunrise.

People get insomnia at all times of years, but a lot of us find these long dark nights especially difficult.  Sleep is, of course, a crucial part of good mental health.  It’s easy to get into a vicious cycle, where mental health difficulties prevent you from sleeping well, and then being tired exacerbates mental health difficulties.  Before you know it, a sleepless night can turn in to a dark night of the soul.

Having endured  many of these dark nights myself, I have developed a set of personal top tips!

 You can download them by clicking here.

So let’s change our sheets and get some nice clean pyjamas.  Fill up our phones with our fave self-care resources and stock up on lavender oil.  Lets get ready for the longest night of the year.

Volunteer vacancies: Youth Advisors

The Mental Health Collective is currently running a new programme, Self-Defence Through Humour, which aims to support young people to defend themselves against threats to their mental health, using humour.  With an innovation award from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we are in the process of piloting the programme in a number of secondary schools.

We are recruiting for volunteer Youth Advisors to assist with the project.  Their role is to help us design the Self-Defence Through Humour programme so it as engaging and valuable as possible for young people.

About the Youth Advisor roles

This volunteer role is designed to be compatible with the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award, but would be suitable for any young person looking to gain experience in the not-for-profit or mental health sector.

Tasks will include:

  • Assisting with research, both online and offline
  • Testing materials and giving feedback
  • Working as part of a team to develop ideas
  • Highlighting key issues and resources
  • Supporting marketing work

About you

We are looking for people who are:

  • Aged 13 or 14 (Year 9)
  • Confident to share opinions
  • Able to work well in a team
  • Contactable by phone

Lived experience of mental health difficulties is a positive asset for the role.  We are seeking to recruit young people from a range of different backgrounds, including those who have faced disadvantage in their lives.

You can apply on your own, or with a friend.

Practicalities and commitment

The role involves a one hour commitment each week, over either a 3 month or a 6 month period.

Youth Advisors will meet as a group in Archway, N19, once a week after school during term time (exact time and date tbc).

Next steps

If you are interested in becoming a Youth Advisor (either as an individual or with a friend), or would like to enquire on behalf of your child, please write a short email to amy@mentalhealthcollective.org.uk.

Mental Health Collective to chair topic group for the Mental Health Act Review

Founder and Director of the Mental Health Collective, Dr Amy Pollard, has been asked to chair the Dignity and Safety Group for the Mental Health Act Review.

Dr Pollard said:

“The independent review of the Mental Health Act, commissioned by the Prime Minister, is a once-in-a generation opportunity to shape legislation and practice which holds the ultimate power over people facing a mental health crisis.

It is an honour to have been asked by Prof. Sir Simon Wessely to chair the Dignity and Safety topic group – drilling down on the Mental Health Act and the structures around it can be reshaped to address the appalling sense of dehumanisation, indignity and disrespect that a high proportion of people under section experience.

The group’s work comes at a particularly poignant time for me – exactly two years after I was sectioned myself.

The topic group brings together eminent representatives who have lived experience of the Act themselves, the BAME community, CQC, NHSI,  mental health trusts, academia, psychiatry, charities and community services, alongside a secretariat from the Department of Health and Social Care.  Together, we are determined that the Mental Health Act Review seizes every possible opportunity to bring greater dignity, safety and humanity into the lives of people in mental health crisis.”