Client-run “Taking the Wheel” campaign to be launched at special Seminar on Thursday

“Taking the Wheel”, a unique service user-led campaign which aims to empower people with a serious mental illness in Wales to take control of their lives and the services they receive will be launched at a special Seminar in Builth Wells on Thursday May 12th.

The Seminar will feature contributors with lived experience of serious mental illness including:

• David Crepaz-Keay, Head of Empowerment and Social Inclusion, Mental Health Foundation.
• Nigel Griffiths, Board Member, MDF The Bipolar Organisation.
• Collette Dawkin, Expert Patient Trainer, Hafal.
• Chris Eastwood, Vice Chair of Hafal.

The campaign, which will run until September, will engage people receiving secondary mental health services or who have serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other diagnoses which typically require high levels of care. Service-user led organisations Hafal and MDF the Bipolar Organisation Cymru will work in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation to support the campaign which will empower people with serious mental illness to:

• Take the driving seat in managing their own recovery from serious mental illness.

• Make use of their new rights under the Mental Health (Wales) Measure.

• Make choices about the care and treatment they receive – and who provides it.

• Develop and manage services themselves.

• Engage with the providers of mental health services so that they can get involved in planning and commissioning mental health services.

Dave Smith, Hafal Expert Patient Trainer and “Taking the Wheel” Seminar Facilitator, said: “A key aim of ‘Taking the Wheel’ is to empower service users so they can manage their recovery. From personal experience I found that after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder my medication worked for the first few years but a lot more things needed changing in my life. In the end I took control of my recovery and made most of those changes myself by using the internet and attending a self-management training course which changed my life. This campaign will emphasise that self-managed recovery is possible.”

Jackie Leech, Hafal Expert Patient Trainer and Service User said: “For some people their most negative critic is themselves. For me, instead of trying to beat my illness I tried to overcome it by accepting the fact that it’s part of me. I’ve always acknowledged that I have the illness and have been willing to speak to people about it; it’s not something to feel ashamed of. When I started visiting Hafal I was a very negative person, I didn’t feel a lot of self-worth but gradually I learnt that I had prospects so changing that negative voice inside and talking to people was empowering for me, meeting new people and doing hands-on things gave me a new perspective and meaning to life. In terms of taking control of services, we’ve all got a voice; if we don’t use our voice how can we expect anybody to listen to us? You can make changes, even though they may be small, by getting your voice heard and these changes can become bigger later on.”

The Seminar will explore how service users can be empowered to take control of their own recovery and have their say on the services they receive. The campaign launch date – just after the National Assembly Elections – means the Seminar will provide an excellent opportunity for service users and carers to engage in current mental health campaigning issues, challenging the new Government to ensure that:

● The Mental Health (Wales) Measure has a robust Code of Practice and Regulations.

● The Assembly Government’s Annual Quality Framework target for full compliance by the NHS with the Care Programme Approach is fully implemented.

● There are sufficient resources for mental health services, and the mental health budget is protected.

Commenting on what the campaign will offer:

Hafal Chief Executive Bill Walden-Jones said: “‘Taking the Wheel’ is different in that service users will not be sitting at the sidelines telling the Welsh Assembly Government what to do. This service user-led campaign aims to help people to help themselves although it will still require a response from those who manage mental health services. The campaign promises to be liberating, fun and informative for all involved.”

Sue Wigmore, Manager, MDF The Bipolar Organisation Cymru said: “MDF Bipolar is very excited to join forces on this user-led campaign which brings together the two mass membership organisations for patients with a serious mental illness in Wales, Hafal and MDF The Bipolar Organisation Cymru, along with our friends in the Foundation.”

David Crepaz-Keay, Mental Health Foundation said: “We are very pleased to be involved because we recognise how important it is that people with a serious mental illness take action to help themselves. We are delighted to support their campaign along with Hafal and MDF The Bipolar Organisation Cymru.”

“Taking the Wheel” will feature a rally around Wales in a classic VW microbus with a number of regional and national events. 22 weekly events will take place from May to September, one in each county, and major displays will take place at the National Eisteddfod and Royal Welsh Show. At each event people will be able literally to ‘take the wheel’ as they race in a camper van rally simulator which promises excitement and fun.

Hafal’s newly designed “Taking the Wheel” webpage and facebook site (http://engb.facebook.com/pages/Hafal/131232186903160) will chart the campaign’s progress. To stay up to date with latest news from the campaign and access a “Taking the Wheel” itinerary please visit: https://www.hafal.org/hafal/taking-the-wheel.php.