Suzi didn’t know her ‘voice’ could be heard until she saw a poster in 2011 about having a say in the closure of a clay class she attended. As Suzi said “I felt I could only be a patient, not a participant.” Campaigning against funding cuts to her arts class led Suzi to become involved in Mind in Brighton & Hove’s Listening to the Voice of Experience (LiVE) project, which supports people with lived experience of mental health issues to communicate with and lobby organisations who develop and deliver services.
Mind’s LiVE project is a diverse group of people, all of whom have experience of mental health issues. The support and understanding that exists within the group helps members not only to manage their mental health and recovery but to develop the confidence to speak up and speak out about mental health issues. Suzi found LiVE was a space where she “could talk to likeminded people, tell them the truth and not be judged no matter how well or unwell you feel.”
Suzi is very articulate and passionate about the rights of people with a mental health problem and since her first foray she has become a leading member of the LiVE project. She now sits on interview panels for both local Mind and the Sussex Foundation Trust and participates in focus groups to develop local NHS mental health services. In less than 18 months, Suzi has gone from not realising she had a voice to shaping the way local services are delivered. She says of her involvement with Mind in Brighton and Hove “it has been very empowering and made me realise my voice is equal to the voice of people who do not have a mental illness”.
Suzi now wants to use her experience and passion to be more involved in changing policy and legislation to reduce the discrimination and stigma that is still so often attached to mental health issues. In addition to her own music business, she has recently taken on a part time job as a Facilities Assistant, where she works with older people with mental health problems . This job means Suzi is able to observe some of the issues people who are inpatients are experiencing and ensure they are heard by local decision makers.
Developing services in consultation with service users means they are much more likely to be effective and to be used. Mind in Brighton and Hove plays a really important role in facilitating this process.