L-R Colleen & Annie from Reaching Out Support Group with Claire McKeown Equality Commission NI

Annie and Colleen from the Reaching Out Action Support Group in conversation with PPR

(Photograph L-R Colleen & Annie from Reaching Out Support Group with Claire McKeown Equality Commission NI)

Tell us about your group

Our group is called Reaching Out Action Support Group and it’s basically to give support to parents and family members who have children or family members with addictions, mental health and other issues. We are based in Belfast and meet once every week on a Thursday from 11 till 1pm. We do different things, we try to work around wellbeing and mental health and to support parents and give them strength to continue with their battle they face every day.

2. What is the best thing about being in your group?

Knowing that you are not alone. Getting the support and the opportunity to try and make a change for better services.

3. What are the biggest issues for your group and in your area in relation to mental health?

Lack of services available for mental health and addiction and lots just horrendous the way people have to go to access help and they are left waiting for months and months and it’s just unacceptable.  It comes down to money and lack of services. I also sometimes think it can be a postcode lottery as well, the different between BT9 along the Malone Road and BT12 which would be regarded as less affluent. Maybe because the people in those areas can afford private option but the normal working class family doing 9 to 5 and trying to keep their head above water doesn’t have that option.

3. Your group is a member of the Mental Health Rights Network. Why do you think it’s important for mental health service users, their families and carers to campaign collectively for better services?

It’s important that those in power know that this isn’t just a problem in one area, that it’s widespread over the whole of NI and that something has to be done about it and getting together and hearing other people’s stories and getting support from them. Also, you meet some really nice people!

4. The Mental Health Rights Network recently launched a new campaign ‘Beyond a Spin of the Wheel’ aimed at improving mental health care provided by GPs. The campaign has come up with a number of recommendations for change. What would you like to see with power do to make these changes a reality?

Addiction and mental health services should be higher up the list when it comes to funding; it seems to be the poor end of the family. If they put ore into training the GP, who is usually your first port of call whenever you are in distress, I think it would go a long way.

5. If there’s one thing that the next Minister for Health should do in relation to mental health what should it be?

Provide a detox and rehabilitation centre. Help our kids.

6. All too often groups like your own are left to should the burden that state agencies should be carrying. Where do you draw inspiration from to keep doing this work?

You have always got that wee bit of hope, that someone might say something that might give you something that you’ve never heard before, like an extra bit of help or support that you didn’t know about before. We will try anything to save our kids.

A passion because having been through it with my own child, just wanting to help other people.  As well as that, the satisfaction and the support, that learning, it’s something that’s worthwhile; it’s something that’s needed.

7. Final thoughts?

It’s time for the government to forget about the past problems and focus on what they say they are interested in, and that is the future. The future is the young people, so let’s look after them and make a future for them. 

You can find out more info on the Reaching Out Support Group on their facebook page – search for @anniedavey208 or contact Annie Davey on 07729184612