Monday, 9 March 2015

Mumsnet, Madness and Me

Our Mumsnet guest post for their 15th birthday celebrations.

In 2012, I had a breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital with severe depression.  The day after I was admitted, a member of staff came to my room to say that I had two visitors.  I didn’t recognise their names. When I met them in the corridor, in front of the staff, they greeted me like old friends, and I went along with it.

When we were alone in the visiting room, they introduced themselves, with an apology.  Sorry, the tall one said, but if I’d introduced myself as TheSecondComing and said that she was a BitOfFun, they’d never have let us in.  I burst out laughing.  It was the first time I’d laughed in weeks.  That, my friends, is what Mumsnetters are all about.

Fast forward to 2014 and I was ill again and back in hospital.  Soon after I was discharged, the news filtered through the community that The Orchard hospital where I had been treated was now male only, meaning there was no local inpatient care for women at all.  All the female patients were being sent miles away for treatment, with no chance of being treated close to home.

I can clearly remember how far my stomach sank when I heard the news.  I felt sick, I felt scared, and I felt vulnerable.  What if I got ill again?  What would it be like to be miles away from my children, my family, my friends?  I walked around my home town thinking about it, and the more I walked and the more I thought, the angrier I became.  How could the needs of women like me be dismissed in such a casual way? How could we lose a service with seemingly not a thought as to how it would affect the women around me? I needed to do something, but what, and how? I needed help from somewhere.

I sent out a call for help from the people I knew, and much of that help came from Mumsnetters.  With their help, the Beds in the Orchard campaign was started.

MmeLindor gave me a crash course on how to run a social media campaign by using use a blog and Twitter to generate interest and support, and provided me with a long list of names of people who she thought could help. Therealsgm came to the rescue by posting about the situation on a site she helped run, which in turn generated interest from national media, with articles in the New Statesman and the Huffington Post.  Another mumsnetter put me in contact with a journalist, who, while they couldn’t run the story, gave me amazing advice about what to do next, leading to coverage on local BBC Radio and in the Press.

A lot of work went in to keeping the campaign going at a local level, with service users joining together to share their stories and look into the legal aspects of the closure, but that was all backed up by the help and support from my Mumsnet family.  With their help, we turned a small campaign about 6 beds in a small psychiatric unit in the corner of North Lancashire into something that people all over the country cared about and wanted to support.

Mumsnetters tweeted and retweeted our posts and promoted the campaign.  Mumsnet Bloggers gave me blog of the day, generating around 1000 hits to our blog and many more signatures on our petition.  The local Mumsnet and Gransnet Sites for Preston, Blackpool, Lancashire and Cumbria all helped support the campaign by sharing our blog, promoting our petition, and tweeting their support. Hundreds of Mumsnetters signed our petition, and some even wrote directly to the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust to show their support for us. 
We fought and fought hard to get the beds back for the women, and we WON!  At the end of January 2015, the Trust reverted The Orchard to a mixed-sex facility, and we doubt that they will close it to women again.

What Mumsnet Means to Me

Being a Mumsnetter is like having a thousand extra sisters you never knew you needed.  Since joining, I have had support through some of the toughest experiences of my life, including my child being diagnosed with Autism, and serious illness.

I have had support and advice about everything from how to navigate the system to get a Statement of SEN for my child, to how to get rid of the mould from my washing machine.  I have laughed my hardest at some of the funniest threads and cried along with those who are suffering.  When I was in hospital, women I'd never met or spoken to in real life wrote me letters and made me feel cared about in a way that’s hard to express in print.

I have met some of my best friends on Mumsnet, with on-line acquaintances turning into real life friends.  Even though, sadly, one of them now lives on the other side of the world, I count myself fortunate to know them every day.

So Happy Birthday, Mumsnet!

I am truly honoured to have been given the Guest Post for Mumsnet's 15th Birthday.  You’re one in a million, and I’m glad I have your sisterhood on my side.

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