Winter 2010 editorial: Hopes and fears

As this issue of One in Four goes to print, Britain is in the grip of what might turn out to be one of the coldest winters for a generation. Nightly, we hear stories of protests and tough decisions being made, of cuts to services and new initiatives.

For some of us, now is an exciting time to be alive, when for the first time in over a decade events seem tantalisingly up in the air and new things seem possible. For others of us, this winter feels like a time of great uncertainty when things that we had become used to and had come to rely upon now seem frighteningly unstable and insecure.

Many people with mental health difficulties feel particularly vulnerable to changes in government policy and public opinion and are looking forward nervously to the final publication of the new mental health strategy for England in spring 2011. This feeling of nervousness runs through this issue of the magazine.

The task we must set ourselves collectively and as individuals is to keep alive a feeling of hope both for ourselves and for others, by any means we can. We all need hope for our mental wellbeing.

Allowing the light of the possibility of a meaningful and happy life for everyone with mental health difficulties to be snuffed out is one of the biggest dangers we face.

Without hope, none of us can get from a place where we are unwell to a place where we can begin to take on life and its challenges. Without hope, no one can initiate new projects or continue with existing ones when the odds seem stacked against them. Without hope, we let wither and die all of the things we have spent years nurturing.

If we do not believe things will get better in the future, we remove the chance of doing anything to make them better in the present. At a time when the pressures and stresses upon us and the organisations and services we use are growing, we must try keep that light of hope shining, if not for ourselves then for those around us, especially if we know we face challenges that already make it difficult to feel hopeful.

It is clear in the current economic climate that we will have to find new ways of helping and supporting each other. This magazine features some suggestions. Depending on our political beliefs, some of us will see this as an obvious course of action and will welcome the retreat of services that we have seen as interfering in our lives, while others will mourn the loss or reduction of services that have helped, nurtured and supported us.

So how do we keep hope alive?

We can arm ourselves with knowledge to help us to counter any stigma we find and help us navigate our way through maze of conflicting media stories. We can work constructively with those who are trying in difficult circumstances to make things better. We can take opportunities as they arise to make things happen for ourselves. We can keep up the pressure for better treatment, support and services. Hope isn’t about ignoring difficulties; it’s about trying to find practical ways to do things about the difficulties we face and believing that it’s possible for your own life to be better and more fulfilling. As we see in this magazine, there are as many mental heath hopes as there are people, and we hope that over the next year One in Four will be able to help many of you find a path toward achieving at least some of those hopes.

It is not a betrayal to suggest to someone that things can and might be better in future than they are
at the moment. To paraphrase an article in this edition: cynicism is a brilliant servant but a terrible master.

Mark Brown, Editor 1st December 2010

This article first appeared in the Winter 2010 edition of One in Four magazine

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