by Leigh Carey
Anyone who knows me will know that I love to talk to people about who we are and what we do at the Hummingbird Project. First and foremost, it is because I’m proud of the change that we inspire in others and passionate about spreading the word, because we keep getting told that we have made a difference. Secondly, it’s kinda my job, as a business leader, to always increase awareness of our work, to grow our workload, our partnerships and ultimately the sustainability of our organisation. But thirdly, and probably most interestingly, it’s because we are a bit of an enigma…. “You aren’t medically trained and yet you provide talking therapy?” “You work within the health sector and yet you do not rely on government or funding money to exist?” “What exactly IS a social enterprise?” “Surely when you are a mental health organisation you only work with people who are sick?” “So, if you aren’t medical then you must be a complementary therapy like mindfulness or meditation?”
Essentially, all of those conversations are to allow the listener to find the appropriate box to place us in. “So you are like …..?” “Oh yes, such and such are doing something similar.” This is not because the listener is being dismissive or flippant, they genuinely want to understand and be able to akin it to something else that is in their frame of reference. When the words change and difference constantly comes up as a positive description of our impact with clients or customers, we realise that doing things differently is our main strength as an organisation. We provide the space, skills and capacity to allow change to happen with the people we work with. Change is good for our clients and customers. Adaptation and thinking about things differently is part of increasing emotional resilience and moving forward with more control and knowledge of an individual’s own experiences.
So, from an organisational and sector perspective, we are approaching things differently and provoking change in the way in which “service providers” approach the issues we are trying to resolve, for good reason. Unfortunately, we all know that the current model of mental health, in the context of health services, is not working to solve the problem. At the moment it is purely having to come at it from a point of crisis, because of the dramatic increase in numbers of people being identified as needing help or struggling to maintain themselves in work or at home. The goal from intervening at that point, be it medical professional, a support organisation or workplace, can only be to get people out of crisis, to a point where they are out of hospital, finished on a particular programme, or back to work from being off sick. If you like, it is filling a hole in the dam, making sure the water isn’t getting through to the “danger” side. Unfortunately, unless you can get that water further away from the hole, there is a very good possibly that it could come through again.
As to question of why a social enterprise rather than be reliant on government funding or the kindness of others, that’s easy, they don’t have it! Northern Ireland’s 3rd sector and in fact the economic stability of the whole country has always been heavily reliant on the statutory sector for jobs, money, and the expectation that if there is an issue to be resolved, they sort it. Unfortunately, because of overall financial cuts to services, and the unique circumstances we currently find ourselves with lack of government, that just isn’t happening anymore. Issues that affect our everyday lives are all of ours.
There is a huge amount of talent, resources, wealth, support and determination to make people happy and healthy in so many areas of our lives. And we all have much more strength, control, influence and lived experience than often we give ourselves credit for. If everyone who had a vested interest in increasing the wellbeing of themselves or others got involved with what they can bring to the table, which will be different for everyone, how much stronger and more resilient would we be….as a community, a workplace, a family or an individual. We want community organisations, employers, all sectors to get involved, pay for our services, get on the front foot and be proactive in engaging in emotional wellbeing. If we all wait for “the people whose job it is to make this stuff happen”, then that help will run low on resources and probably not intervene until it is a much more serious, long term problem to solve. Proactive is always better than reactive.
The Hummingbird is a symbol of adaptability…of being tenacious, figuring things out, moving in a different way, and then getting to where they need to go. This is not always easy or comfortable. You will often have to change direction, pause and be learning and reassessing at each stage of the journey. We ask everyone to get involved in getting where we all need to go. With the help, support, knowledge and accountability of everyone we work with, we can change the way each of us engage with emotional wellbeing.