David's story: 70 thank yous

My name is David and I’m Head of Empowerment and Social Inclusion here at the Mental Health Foundation.

I’m one of the charity’s longest-serving members of staff, but this is my first opportunity to thank you directly for your support; I hope we can count on your kindness again this Christmas.

When it comes to the Mental Health Foundation, I have so much to be thankful for.

Where my connection to mental health began

Since I joined the Foundation, I’ve had the privilege of seeing and being involved in many advances in the field of mental health. But my connection goes back a whole lot further because without this pioneering charity and enlightened supporters like you, attitudes towards people with mental health problems would be very different – and my life could have been very different too.

You see, while today I am a mental health professional invited to sit as an expert on advisory panels at government level, I was once a very scared 15-year-old, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and a sense that my life was over.

Not that long ago, people like me would have been confined to an institution for life; locked away from society with the 'mad', the 'bad' and the so-called ‘moral imbeciles’; unmarried mothers, soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and those with conditions like epilepsy.

You can see why I was so inspired to write that list of 70 ‘thank you’s to mark the 70th year of the Mental Health Foundation.

How things have changed for the better

Undoubtedly, things have changed dramatically for the better. Today, people with mental health problems are involved and active participants in their own care. We understand the value of self-help and peer support and have developed useful tools to underpin this. And we have started to think about ways to nurture a mentally healthy society, right across the board.

Many of these changes would not have been possible without the Mental Health Foundation and their willingness to break the mould.

We have been the trailblazers for so much good work, which is why I hope you’ll support us today by making a donation. 

Starting work at the Mental Health Foundation

I remember, one of my first tasks when I joined the Mental Health Foundation was to look at how people with mental health problems could be involved in designing better services. This area of ‘service user involvement’ was in its infancy then and it soon became clear that the very people most in need of support were actually benefitting the least. For example, young black men were routinely being detained, injected and locked up, while older Asian women were not getting any ‘services’ at all. It stuck out like a sore thumb that these people needed to be involved in their own treatment and care.

We also raised the question, if you can have a perfectly happy life with diabetes, why not with a diagnosis of schizophrenia? This led us to move away from ‘managing the condition’ (e.g. managing schizophrenia) to ‘managing life in the context of a condition’ (e.g. living with schizophrenia). Again, involving people with mental health problems was going to play a vital role in making this move a success.

Valuing peer support in our work

It had been clear to me for many years that people with mental health problems have certain things in common, notably, poor self-image, poor self-esteem and very little self-confidence, all bound up with how the world treats you. However, as we have proved at the Mental Health Foundation, bringing people with shared experiences together (peer to peer) encourages them to be ambitious for each other and to come up with brilliant way of solving their own problems.

Over the years, thousands of people have benefitted from our approach to user involvement and peer support, including older people, single parents and looked after children. But there is still a huge amount to do, which is why we need your help.

New challenges to good mental health

Despite remarkable progress, today’s world constantly presents new challenges to good mental health, as well as new opportunities.

Take social media and the on-going pressure to be perfect. As you may remember from our work during Mental Health Awareness week, a huge proportion of young people feel anxious about their body image and more than one in eight UK adults have experienced suicidal thoughts because of this. Then there are a whole load of questions arising from the fast-growing field of genetics, such as what our genome reveals about our susceptibility to certain conditions and what might happen if this information is shared or leaked.

In cases like these (and so many more), we need a reputable, proven and trusted voice to raise and answer important questions than have an impact on the whole of society. And that’s what the Mental Health Foundation provides.

Donate in our 70th year

Celebrate our achievements and to help us prepare for the challenges ahead. Thank you so much for whatever you can donate today – and for being part of this vital and necessary charity.

Donate now

We want to have conversations with you

Make no mistake, if we don’t start these conversations with the public, it will be the likes of politicians, lawyers, geneticists and headline writers who will end up making our care and treatment decisions for us. And while it’s no simple matter, the Mental Health Foundation has never shied away from the complicated stuff – thanks to strong allies like you who will enable us to carry on blazing a trail long into the future.

Thank you so much for your support.

To the Mental Health Foundation and every supporter…

  1. Thank you for putting people with mental health problems at the centre of their own care
  2. Thank you for thinking progressively when few had the courage
  3. Thank you for stepping outside your comfort zone
  4. Thank you for understanding the value of dialogue
  5. Thank you for recognising the talents of people who have spent time as detained patients
  6. Thank you for tackling stigma
  7. Thank you for taking away the shame of mental illness
  8. Thank you for making sure a frightened 15-year-old is no longer written off as 'a hopeless schizophrenic'
  9. Thank you for encouraging policy makers to listen to the real experts
  10. Thank you for showing that mad people are not the dangerous psychopaths of tabloid headlines
  11. Thank you for ensuring that no one today gets locked away for life in a 'loony bin'
  12. Thank you for constantly going the extra mile
  13. Thank you for helping to remove ‘moral imbecile’ from the lexicon
  14. Thank you for seeing people with mental health problems as part of the solution
  15. Thank you for flying the flag for self-management and peer support
  16. Thank you for proving it works
  17. Thank you for knowing there’s a need for community, not just ‘community care’
  18. Thank you for providing such helpful tools
  19. Thank you for boosting self-esteem
  20. Thank you for raising important questions for the future in areas such as genetics
  21. Thank you for all the rigorous research
  22. Thank you for championing prevention
  23. Thank you for striving to create ‘mentally healthy’ workplace
  24. Thank you for building on the past and thinking ahead
  25. Thank you for seeing the value of lived experience at all levels of the organisation
  26. Thank you for enabling me to claim my mad identity
  27. Thank you for not running from difficult questions
  28. Thank you for promoting wellbeing
  29. Thank you for tackling tricky issues such as self-harm
  30. Thank you for helping people to have difficult conversations
  31. Thank you for educating the next generation
  32. Thank you for showing the link between suicide and austerity
  33. Thank you for helping people set goals and achieve them
  34. Thank you for quelling panic
  35. Thank you for helping employers see the financial cost of poor mental health
  36. Thank you for brilliant online mindfulness training
  37. Thank you for helping people manage their stress levels
  38. Thank you for revealing the problems so many are hiding
  39. Thank you for providing the means to address them
  40. Thank you for all the toolkits
  41. Thank you for enabling people to buoy each other up
  42. Thank you for every Mental Health Awareness Week
  43. Thank you for employing progressive thinkers
  44. Thank you for not shying away from the controversial
  45. Thank you for the spirit of consultation
  46. Thank you for giving people a sense of belonging
  47. Thank you for the honesty
  48. Thank you for breaking cycles that lead to poor mental health
  49. Thank you for saying ‘why not’ and ‘we’ll try’
  50. Thank you for tackling discrimination
  51. Thank you for being an informed voice
  52. Thank you for making ‘psychiatrist knows best’ a thing of the past
  53. Thank you for sharing your expertise
  54. Thank you for seeing people not labels
  55. Thank you for tackling loneliness and isolation
  56. Thank you for giving people purpose and a chance to contribute
  57. Thank you for allowing me to use my experience to help others
  58. Thank you for not putting up with mental health patients having a shorter life span
  59. Thank you for opening minds and opportunities
  60. Thank you for seeing ‘mad’ people as an untapped resource
  61. Thank you for supporting innovation
  62. Thank you for not playing it safe
  63. Thank you for helping so many to fulfil their potential
  64. Thank you for showing people they can live well with their condition
  65. Thank you for proving that a diagnosis needn’t be a life sentence
  66. Thank you for working so hard to build a better society for everyone
  67. Thank you for supporting a charity for long-term change – not a five-minute feel-good factor
  68. Thank you on behalf of the invisible and voiceless
  69. Thank you for bothering to read this list!
  70. Thank you for donating again today; our supporters make this amazing change possible - and I for one am very grateful

A personal note of thanks from one of our longest-serving staff members, Dr David Crepaz-Keay, whose life is one of many you have touched with your generosity.