As we as a Forum, and to a degree society at large, finds its feet post Covid, online working and meeting seems to have become the norm, albeit not always conducive when we talk about people’s wellbeing. The challenges post covid for many have been huge and coupled with the financial crises and world events we see mental health and wellbeing issues exponentially increasing. Covid has exposed and put a spotlight on the most vulnerable in society and shown the huge inequalities in our society – poverty, isolation, loneliness, mental health, people’s wellbeing. We have also seen the greatness of humanity – the community spirit was very moving – communities coming together, places of worship and people from all walks of life came together to help each other – a phenomenal ‘stepping up to help fellow human-beings’. That is what the National Spirituality and Mental Health Forum epitomises.
As eloquently articulated recently by our Founder Chair, Martin….. since April 2012 with the end of our three year spirituality project with the NHS, the Forum has lost much of its former momentum and, I would say impact. At that time we were had some 1,800 interested parties on our database. Then in December 2012 we had the devastating news our dear friend Prof Peter Gilbert had sadly passed away. In 2014 we commenced the memorial lectures in Peter Gilbert’s name in the hope that this would assist in gathering more members. Over the years we have had some great speakers but unfortunately our few events have not brought in many new members. Since Prof Gilbert’s time, we have not had dedicated employed staff, the work has been conducted by volunteers whilst holding down their professional commitments. We must commend and applaud them.
As with any organisation run, managed and overseen by volunteers we are not immune to the challenges this presents – namely the availability of time and resources to enable putting on events and activities. Like other voluntary groups facing challenging times we would always need to tackle the following soul-searching questions:
1. Do we plan to set a course to expand the Forum by being more hands-on and proactive?
2. Do we seek to merge our Forum with another organisation that may share our commitment, values, and objectives?
3. Do we wind-up the Forum and close after 26 years of contribution, however small, but extremely significant?
As Chair, I see the need for the forum more important than ever before. The NHS and the advent of the Integrated Care System (ICS) presents a great opportunity for the Forum to engage, whilst they are looking to revolutionise healthcare provision by making it more community driven and led. I would encourage the Trustees and members to look to the future with positivity and keep in perspective that there are many out there that are in need of our services. Also here are very few who are able to deliver what the Forum can do.
That said, I do not think the Forum is past its shelf life. The Forum, and what it stands for, is something that should outlive all of us – this is about the wellbeing of society. We should be encouraging ambassadors and members to take the vision forward however we can. This is about a movement of ensuring spirituality and mental health matters remain on the agenda. I have high hopes for the future of the Forum, and I think it has a crucial role to play. We must also look at opportunities to engage broader, draw down or attract more funding to enable support staff and help grow the impact of the Forum.
May I take this opportunity to thank all our Trustees and particularly Yvette, our Secretary for her commitment to keep us in check, Martin for keeping us compliant with external regulation and commitments whilst always providing wise counsel.
Amrick Singh Ubhi
24th November 2022