Kathryn Tyson - Chair’s New Year message
2022 marks our 50th anniversary. Over the course of the year we will be reflecting on the challenges and achievements of the past as well as looking to the future and how we can create a better tomorrow and Communities that Care. In this blog, our new chair, Kathryn Tyson, talks about her experience in the mental health community and shares with us her priorities in what will be a pivotal year for the charity.
I’m sure I am not alone in being relieved to see the back of 2021!
Although we were perhaps past the fear and unknowing of 2020, last year still threw us plenty of twists and turns in our collective battle to overcome the pandemic. But in amongst the turmoil there were some bright notes, and these are the memories I am taking with me into this New Year.
Since the very start, the way the vast majority of people have responded to help others is inspiring, including the work of health and social care professionals, the volunteers who supported the vaccine drives and neighbours delivering food and essentials as needed. Being passionate about mental health and conscious of the huge impact the pandemic has had, I was also inspired by the charity’s efforts to both advocate and secure more support for people, notably those already severely affected by mental illness.
I, and my fellow trustees, were awestruck by the dedication shown by everyone working at the frontline to continue to deliver our services to those depending on them.
As a trustee, I had a front row seat to see the hard work that was being put in and how people throughout the charity adapted and changed to the circumstances as needed. I, and my fellow trustees, were awestruck by the dedication shown by everyone working at the frontline to continue to deliver our services to those depending on them.
On a personal note, one of my proudest moments in 2021 was being appointed Chair of Trustees of this great charity in November. Although in doing so, I knew that I was filling some big shoes left by my predecessor - the inimitable Philippa Lowe.
It’s time I told you all a bit about myself. I am a retired senior civil servant, and fairly recent grandmother, in my early sixties. Born and brought up in Nottingham, I now live in Surrey, from where I commuted daily to Whitehall, and from where I can now just as easily reach Vauxhall, and Rethink Mental Illness’s London HQ.
My interest in mental health and my drive to improve the lives of those affected by mental illness stems from my time as Head of Mental Health Policy at the then Department of Health. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to be able to turn on the first NHS funding for psychological therapies, successfully build on the initial development of Early Intervention in Psychosis and feed off the boundless energy and vision of a vast range of people working in the field who pushed mental health up the public policy agenda.
Conscious of the transformative effect that the right support at the right time can provide, I have become frustrated for those that do not receive it, for reasons that could mostly be fixed
Conscious of the transformative effect that the right support at the right time can provide, I have become frustrated for those that do not receive it, for reasons that could mostly be fixed - sufficient attention to whole-person support, the interdependence of systems and services, and, most of all, equity and fairness.
In the coming years, my task is to support Rethink Mental Illness to provide that support to everyone severely affected by mental illness. This is not something we can do alone. It requires the transformation of the whole system. And we’re already working on it in some pioneering parts of the country.
We articulate it through Communities that Care. The causes of mental illness are complex, and the solutions are not ready-made. Clinical support can do much, but with our mental health heavily influenced by our environment, no treatment or therapy on its own can overcome social isolation, racism, inadequate housing, poverty and the impact of poor physical health. When someone needs support they need to access open doors to peer, financial, housing, physical health, employment and volunteering support as well as clinical care and treatment. We need to drive a revolution in joined up care and support, where the importance of social care is as equally understood and valued as health care.
Looking ahead now, I see a lot to occupy and excite us:
- Supporting the rollout of the Community Mental Health Framework across the new NHS landscape – which puts into practice our Communities that Care model. Recognising the need for place-based care to meet the full needs of a person severely affected by mental illness.
- Ensuring our services are beacons of this model, setting best practice for the rest of the sector in delivering care and support.
- Campaigning at a national level to ensure mental health social care is adequately funded, and that the benefits system supports people to live and thrive independently in their communities.
- Accelerating our work to become an anti-racist organisation – so that we are a truly diverse charity better able to tackle many of the key issues around severe mental illness.
- Picking up the mantle of the Time to Change campaign, being on the front foot in challenging stigma and discrimination wherever it exists and specifically in relation to severe mental illness.
And of course this year marks our 50th anniversary, which provides an opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved but also to be ambitious about the future for people severely affected by mental illness and their carers. All of which can and must be built on the foundation of genuine co-production.
As we eventually overcome this horrible pandemic and better understand its full impact, I am confident we have the passion and expertise to build a better tomorrow, and I look forward to working with Rethink Mental Illness’s staff, trustees, supporters and members to make that a reality.
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