I read an interesting article recently about how Society understands mental health issues and why this particular psychologist believes we’re getting things wrong. Sanah Ahsan suggests that our view is essentially too person-centred, that our attention is too focused on what we see as “the problem in the person and ignores the politics of their distress”. She suggests that “If a plant were wilting we wouldn’t diagnose it with ‘wilting plant syndrome’ – we would change its conditions”. Alluding to the quote that we love at WAM from Alexander Den Heijer “When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment that it grows in not the flower”.
There is no doubt that mental health issues often require medication and/or therapy and we would by no means suggest that someone doesn’t or shouldn’t seek that support. But there is lots of what we experience at WAM that that resonates with Sanah’s perspective. She challenges us all to turn our attention to our society’s conditions. Alongside supporting individuals on their journey to better mental health we also need to take collective responsibility for changing the environment we’re all planted in so that all have equal opportunity to thrive.
The challenge for us is because of the politics, cuts to services and increasing referrals & need, we are so caught up in sustaining the work that goes into supporting the individual that changing those conditions becomes something we aim to do when we have more capacity. Securing funding for our core costs is a constant challenge, yet it is this that gives our frontline staff the capacity to really turn their ears not just to the issues that young people are facing but to be able to understand what conditions in the soil need changing and how to go about that. As a locally based grassroots organisation we are uniquely placed to journey with young people as they navigate growing up in our community.
Winchcombe is an amazing community to be part of and for us to be working within. We benefit from so many community assets in the form of committed volunteers, supporters and advocates, financial donations & practical help from all corners of the town. In our last financial year (Sept 2021 – Aug 2022) almost a quarter of our annual income came from the local community & just over a third of that was from regular monthly donations from individuals either living within or with a connection to Winchcombe. These donations enable us to rent office space, pay for insurance, pay for staff time in writing grant applications or funding bids to run projects and to manage all our general operations & charity reporting. Basically all the behind the scenes stuff that is essential for enabling our frontline staff to do their jobs well. There is no statutory funding anymore for these kinds of costs & yet we can’t deliver any face-to-face youth work, that we get occasional council grants for, without these foundations in place.
Unfortunately, this academic year we are predicting a 50% drop in our income from local organisations & individuals partly due to people’s own financial constraints but also due to other organisations who have previously supported us either closing down or facing financial challenges themselves. If you would like to find out more about how to invest in our local youth work this year through regular financial donations please get in touch via our website www.wamyouth.org.uk or donate directly at https://wamyouth.enthuse.com/donate#!/