Some of you may know that I support a mental health charity, called SANE. SANE is a London-based organisation, which offers helpline, email and discussion board services, providing much needed emotional support and practical information to anyone affected by mental illness. This includes service users, their carers or family members, concerned others, employers and other organisations.
From SANE’s own website:
SANE was established in 1986 to improve the quality of life for people affected by mental illness following the overwhelming public response to a series of articles featured in The Times newspaper entitled The Forgotten Illness. Written by Marjorie Wallace, now SANE’s chief executive, the articles exposed the neglect of people suffering from mental illness and the poverty of services and information.
SANE has three objectives:
- To raise awareness and combat stigma about mental illness, educating and campaigning to improve mental health services
- To provide care and support for people with mental health problems, their families and carers as well as information for other organisations and the public
- To initiate research into the causes and treatments of serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and depression and the psychological and social impact of mental illness
Unfortunately, being a charity, they are grossly under-funded. After a massive cut to funding in 2005, SANE was reduced from three national offices down to just the current one in Aldgate. Added to this, SANE can only afford to run its helpline (SANEline) from 6pm-11pm every evening, when the hours used to run through the night in years past. To its credit, SANEline does stay open 365 days a year, but those 5 short hours a day limit the number of calls that can be answered. Added to this, the limits on staff and the rigorous training involved in volunteer recruitment means that the SANEmail inbox is always full, and responses can be delayed as demand far outstrips manpower.
So how can you help? Volunteering is a big commitment, but if you can give the time (and the emotional energy) it is incredibly rewarding (as any SANE volunteer will tell you). But there are other options if you feel you cannot help in this way: promote SANE’s work. Donate what you can. Even just buy your Christmas cards via SANE. In fact, one thing that Ben and I always come back to (Ben used to do voluntary IT work for SANE) is the fact that volunteers work on incredibly old computers: SANE simply do not have the freedom to replace old but serviceable machines. Do you or your company have any computers or computer peripherals (the monitors are TINY) that you would be willing to donate?
Every little honestly does help: please support SANE’s continuing effort to protect the vulnerable and fight mental health stigma.