Dorset Mind: the National Association for Mental Health was set up in November 1946. Dorset Mind – then known as Bournemouth Association for Mental Health – was one of the founder Local Associations for Mental Health.
Over the seventy plus years it has been in existence, Dorset Mind has seen an enormous change in the way mental health services are provided: in the 1940s, many people with serious mental health problems spent their lives in large, long-term mental institutions.
Over the intervening 70+ years, those institutions have closed, and most people are cared for mainly in the community, while the 1959 and 1983 Mental Health Acts gave new legal frameworks to the detention and compulsory treatment of people with mental health problems.
Founded by Bournemouth psychiatrist Doris Odlum, Bournemouth Association for Mental Health was originally a society for psychiatrists and others interested in mental health. Public meetings were held, usually with a slide show, guest speaker or film, at which mental health issues were discussed. Service users were not represented, and the association did not, at first, provide any services.
In 1961-62, the association had an income of £100, of which £79 was banked: the other £21 was sufficient to cover telephone calls (£1/16/0, or £1.80 in decimal money), stationery (£2/7/9), postage (£7/0/0) and other expenses.
In 1971 Bournemouth Association for Mental Health, in partnership with Bournemouth Churches Housing Association, acquired a house in Bingham Road as a ‘group home’. This provided independent accommodation for a group of people with mental health problems. Unfortunately, the ‘group home’ could not attract enough tenants and, as the association was unable to afford the mortgage, the house was sold in 1977.
In 1979, the association started up a Friday Club in Shrubshall Hall. This ran for a couple of years before falling membership caused its closure in 1981. In the 1980s, a number of large mental institutions closed and there were increased numbers of patients being cared for in the community. As a result, the voluntary sector found itself being asked to help support increasing numbers of people who were living independently, often for the first time in their lives. This coincided with the contracting out of public services which was then being pioneered.
The association responded by setting up a Befriending Service in 1987. Other services followed: a charity shop, Women in Mind and the Pokesdown Club started in the early 1990s, following earlier involvement with a drop-in club in Winton run by Social Services. Also in the 1990s, the association started to involve service users as members of the Executive Committee, reflecting the changes that were taking place nationally.
The next 70 years will undoubtedly see many more changes in the way mental health services are provided. Dorset Mind would like to see, wherever possible, services fully integrated into the communities they serve; a greater acceptance and understanding of mental health issues by the general public; mental health legislation that emphasises the right to treatment rather than extended powers of compulsion; and more involvement of service users in developing and delivering the services they use.
A great deal of progress has been made, and the voluntary sector has played a key role in that progress, but there is still a great deal to be done