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Photo of a man sitting down holding his hands together

Joe Kelly, photograph by Tim Evans ©

Joe Kelly is working towards a better deal for mental health users and survivors

I hope 2010 is a very productive and positive year. 2009 was very mixed. I had some interesting experiences but the year was tinged with difficulties. I am reminded that I am continuing on a pathway that started many years ago.

In 1998 I co-founded Footsteps Art Group, which later became Footsteps Arts. From small beginnings my colleagues and I were able to create a lively art group, with visual arts, music and creative writing, not to forget filmmaking and photography. We were lucky to create a vibrant group.

By 2008 I was feeling worn out and disillusioned that the local commissioners did not see user providers like ourselves as making a large contribution to the work of mental health recovery. In July 2008 I stood down as director/coordinator of Footsteps Arts, maintaining a seat on the board of trustees of our treasured charity.

In October 2008 my dear mother had a stroke so there was lots of activity in the family to deal with this unfortunate occurrence.

In February 2009 my good friend Peter Munn invited me to go the WNUSP World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry conference in Kampala, Uganda. In just under a month I was able to raise approximately £1100 for travel and expenses appealing to the 500 contacts I had made over 10 years. I was also helped with a generous contribution from Disability Arts Online.

The conference was a great success, meeting some fine people from 35 countries around the planet. The main topics were CRPD (Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities), mental health feminism, the positive side of madness, and many more. It was exciting stuff.

A little later I went to the Critical Psychiatry conference in Norwich run by Dr Joanna Moncrieff. At this conference the medical model of psychiatry was being seriously challenged by dissenting members of the psychiatric profession. A psychologist called">Gail Hornstein made a big impact with a book called 'Agnes’ Jacket'.

In September I attended the mental health trainers’ conference run by Thurston Basset, also working closely with Peter Munn. This was a lively conference outlining service users as trainers - something you do not hear much about at your local CMHRC .

In November 2009 I attended the R.D.Laing conference at Cavendish Square, Central London, another conference where many psychiatrists were sceptical about the medical model, even highlighting the dangers of antidepressant medication during pregnancy leading to birth defects.

Finally I attended one day of the Mind Annual Conference at Brighton race course in the suburbs of Brighton. I learnt quite a bit at this conference on service users as commissioners, and also financial capability to help people managing on DSS Benefit.

Writing blogs and attending mental health conferences has given me a taste for campaigning. I've been encouraged by my friend Ramon Costa to form the 'Hope Network.' Hope, because that’s what we need the most, and Network, because if we are to get our views across we need to bring together like-minded people and lobby them whenever a blog is posted.

I am also hoping to write a book and even producing a DVD if I can get a publisher interested. In doing this I would like to raise a platform for myself as a speaker to give talks and presentations about the difficulties of the mental health system and by asking important questions and outlining how life could be better for mental health service users and society as a whole.

In order to do this I need to develop an online work force. Tim Evans has helped considerably with photography and design work. Charles Jobson has helped with typing and mentoring. I would also like to get other volunteers to help with creating an online database. I look forward to developing these ideas further.

I would also be interested in comments and criticisms, particularly from dao readers, in fact, the more the merrier.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 19 January 2010

Last modified by Anonymous, 20 January 2010