Updated: Oct 23, 2019
I went to visit the lovely people who run "The Mix" a few months ago now.
Although sitting on an article for this long and not writing it is not usually my style, I felt the huge weight of the importance of this piece on my shoulders, and anxious of not being able to write their story how it should be told or doing them the justice they deserve.
What I realised though, was that not writing it all together is what would not being doing them justice, and even if a handful of people read this and know about the work they do, that is worth it, so here goes....
The Mix, is a community group that meets twice a week to help the people of Milton Keynes who are suffering with poor mental health.
The group was started 4 years ago by a local social worker, who has recently stepped down and it is now voluntarily run by a wonderful woman called Cynthia Hazel.
When I went to meet with Cynthia and the rest of the volunteers, I did not know the importance of the work that they did, or what to expect. At that moment in time they were situated at The Point, in the centre of MK.
I arrived 30 minutes prior to the meet up start time and although I was early, there was already a queue of people anxiously waiting outside for the doors to open.
Cynthia and a few of the other volunteers were in there setting up, I chatted to them whilst they were organising the free drinks area, and it soon dawned on me the enormous importance of this place.
Every week, The Mix gets around 90 people coming to visit them, all the visitors are suffering with their mental health in some way. Some more severe than others, but all of whom are in need of some support.
The volunteers that work here are mostly, but not all, made up of social workers. Who have seen first hand that there are so many people in need of help in MK, and who just aren't getting the help that they require.
They come here, every week, unpaid, out of their own time, to help people who have in many cases, been discharged from social care, but who deeply still need it.
As Cynthia explains, the people come to The Mix for support, advice, but really to feel accepted for who they are, in a safe space full of others who understand. There are no stigmas in the meet ups, no labels for who suffers with what and how badly. They are just treated like a friend, or a person who needs a cup of tea and a chat. -(https://themixmk.com/)
Julie Byrne is a support worker that volunteers there and I managed to speak to her in between setting up and speaking with some of the visiting locals.
Julie described The Mix as a "preventative service". As she rightly stated, the social care system is getting so overrun with patients who need help, and there just isn't the money being put into the health service that is needed to support these numbers.
This means that the social/support workers themselves are being so overrun with caseloads that they just don't physically have the time for, and many end up leaving the profession due to the stress of all of the work.
Julie and I talked about how The Mix is a preventative service because just the few hours that they meet a week, is enough time to see dozens of people who need help, and this small amount of time with each person helps them immensely.
This time at The Mix means people can get the help they need before it's too late. The waiting lists for the health service is so high due to demand that by the time the patients get the help they need, they need more help because they are worse off than when they originally asked for it.
Julie quite rightly stated that "if there was something like this in place, all day, everyday. The demand for referrals would be a lot less."
The Mix essentially deletes the middleman. It means that if someone isn't feeling well, they can go straight to The Mix to meet with someone who can help, and almost instantly get the help they need, or at least ease a little anxiety and feel slightly better.
One of Julies regular visitors at The Mix was trying to speak with her whilst I was there, before they went off for their weekly chat, I managed to speak with her a little.
The woman shall remain anoymous, but in my opinion I could see within the first five seconds of meeting her that she suffered severely with poor mental health.
If I were to meet her in any other setting, I would have presumed that she had regular help from a social worker, as she seemed quite unwell due to her mental health. The woman told me that she has been discharged from mental health services and deemed healthy enough to be without it. She stated that she waits the whole week just to go to The Mix and meet with "my Julie". To be able to speak to her is what kept her going from day to day and that she didn't know what she would do without the group and without the support workers that go there.
The Samaritans and Citizens Advice Bureau meet every week at the group, appointment free and give free advice and help to anyone who needs it.
The enormity of what I saw when I went to visit The Mix, was the amount of people who give their time, free of charge just to help others. They aren't by any means just popping in, they are struggling to keep it going and sacrificing a great deal of their spare time.
The Mix is always in need of more helpers and volunteers. When the idea of The Mix was first put out there, over 100 volunteers and social workers went to the meeting to discuss running it, but when I went to visit, there were only around 6 people there working, and two who came to open up and set up.
The Mix relies solely on fundraising and donations to keep on running. The biggest questions that I had after this meeting was that now that the importance of good mental health is finally getting the voice and social media presence that it deserves, why isn't the money that is needed being put into that part of the health care system? And why are groups like The Mix not getting the recognition and donations that they deserve?
Since I went to meet The Mix, they have been evicted from The Point in the centre MK and now run on Mondays 13:30-16:00 at Unity Park Station (old bus station next to the train station) and Thursdays 13:30-16:00 at Water Eaton Church Centre in Bletchley.
Since the change in location, The Mix has seen numbers decrease, whether this is due to people finding their way to the new locations, or the anxiety involved in a change of routine they don't know.
All I hope for the future of this group and the people who run it, is that their hard work gets the recognition and funding that it deserves. The work that they are doing is invaluable to the people of Milton Keynes who suffer with their mental health, and I hope that the social media recognition of mental health soon transfers into daily life.
We as the people of Milton Keynes, like everyone else in the country have a mental health, and whether you as a person suffer with poor mental health or not, you definitely know someone who does. Now more than ever I hope we are seeing how important it is to keep our mental health in check, and how imperative it is that groups like The Mix are available on a regular basis.
If you would like to know more about The Mix and either help them out with the work they do, or go to a meet up yourself for some help please follow the link to thier website and blog; https://themixmk.com
Thanks for reading,
Not Such a Soulless City