More than 150 knitted chicks were donated to a hospital by a WI group last week to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Mannings Heath WI made the chicks, which each had a chocolate Easter egg nestling inside, for the staff and service users at Langley Green Hospital in Crawley as part of the WI’s national campaign.
Bernice Middleton, mental health awareness ambassador at Mannings Heath WI, said: “The smiles on the faces of the staff when we presented the Easter chicks was so very rewarding.
“The ladies have whole-heartedly got behind this campaign, as we feel there is so much to be done, and we really can make a difference.”
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The group’s involvement in the campaign began nearly a year ago when a member organised for four guest speakers to talk about mental health at the group’s May meeting.
The speakers invited worked in different areas of mental health, but all have the group’s local hospital as a base.
Bernice added: “This hospital is about ten miles from us, but many of us had never heard of it, despite the fact that it would be where we would be admitted should we have serious mental health issues.
“Our speakers spoke with great passion about their work, and the issues they face. They told us that the hospital has 69 beds on four wards, and that as soon as one patient is discharged, another is admitted; there are never any spare beds. They are badly under-resourced, both from staffing and equipment viewpoints.”
Bernice explained how many service users are admitted in a hospital gown, or with the clothes they are standing in, and the staff often draw on their personal resources to buy sanitary ware, basic toiletries and clothing.
In 2017, the staff were given £1.22 to buy a Christmas present for each service user.
“We were appalled,” revealed Bernice. “Having these speakers just telling us honestly about the everyday situations they face made a huge impression.
“We felt this was a situation where our help could really make a difference, and so we appointed a mental health awareness ambassador to meet with the hospital staff and agree an action plan.”
In six months the WI group have collected enough basic toiletries and sanitary ware to fill two car boots, collected three car bootfuls clothing, bought and wrapped Christmas jumpers for half the service users (the rest were through a donation from a church), sung Christmas carols at the hospital, donated soft knitted Christmas trees and other decorations, and organised a mental health awareness training day.
Bernice continued: “As a result of our donations of clothing and toiletries, a room at the hospital has been set aside where service-users can go and choose what they need. This is the first clothing/toiletries bank in Sussex Partnership Trust and has enabled the hospital to support other hospitals in the trust and the local community.”
As well as continuing with these collections, the WI is also hoping to begin a craft project with the service users, a garden project, community singing, a tea party and Chritmas treats.
Bernice added: “It is a great privilege to be working alongside the dedicated staff at the hospital. Both our WI and the hospital are delighted with the success of our mental health awareness campaign. It has exceeded our wildest dreams.”