Giving sufferers ‘a voice’ that will be heard
A mental health charity in Bradford celebrated its 25th anniversary last month, in which time thousands of people have benefitted from the crucial advocacy help.
The Bradford and Airedale Mental Health Advocacy Group (BAMHAG) first opened its doors in 1989 when a group of support workers banded together to help empower patients with mental health illnesses.
Since then, it has grown into one of the UK’s longest standing providers of user-led mental health advocacy work – providing statutory and non-statutory mental health advocacy within hospital and community settings.
Helping to give people with such illnesses ‘a voice’, the advocates, many of whom have suffered from mental health issues before, do not judge any patient and listen to all requests, big or small.
Sharon Cullerton, director at BAMHAG, has been working for the charity for the past 15 years and said its longevity was down to a rise in understanding of mental health work.
“To reach 25 years is a big achievement but there is still much more work to be done,” she said.
“A greater parity is needed for mental health issues in relation to physical health because so many people are affected by the illness during their life.
“Official statistics say that one in four people will experience a mental health problem, but I believe every person will at some point. It is a natural part of human being.”
She added: “It is our job to support these people by giving them ‘a voice’ in their time of need and making sure that voice is heard.”
In some South Asian communities, the topic of mental health is still considered somewhat of a taboo subject.
Aminur Chowdhury is a volunteer at BAMHAG and says he has seen the effects of mental health issues with friends and close acquaintances.
Reiterating Ms Cullerton’s sentiments, he added: “I think what we need to see in the very near future is a greater acceptance of mental health illnesses from all communities, especially the South Asian one.
“There is still a stigma attached to the topic yet anybody can suffer from these issues and it is imperative that we as a community understand this and help in whatever way we can.
“A mental health illness does not only revolve around the idea of ‘jinns’ but can come from a number of sources, with the death of a close family member a very popular trigger.
“The community has a responsibility to help others and by putting them in touch with wonderful charities such as BAMHAG, we can do just that.”
Over the last 25 years, BAMHAG has flourished within the Health and Social Care system, receiving The Duke of York’s Community Initiative Award in 2005 as well as a national award from the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE) for positive practice in Mental Health.
Today a team of 19 staff and individual advocates specialise in Community, Older People, Independent Mental Capacity and Independent Mental Health advocacy work across Bradford and Airedale.