For World Mental Health Day: Emma Hancox opens up the Mind archive.
Over 80 boxes of material from the archive of Mind, the leading mental health charity in England and Wales are now available for consultation in the Wellcome Library. The material is from the Subject Files section of the archive (SA/MIN), and was set aside for permanent preservation by Mind in a designated ‘archive cupboard’. Early minute books from some of Mind’s predecessor bodies are also available. Mind began life as the National Association for Mental Health (NAMH) in 1946, but it owes its name to the Mind Appeal, a 1970s fundraising campaign launched by David Ennals.
One of the highlights of the archive is the original 1971 fundraising booklet. The focus is on the effect mental health issues can have on people of all ages. Grassroots services offered by Mind at the time such as playgroups, social clubs and skills workshops could make a real difference but were in desperate need of funds. It is the campaign’s personal appeal that makes it so successful, the images of people look like anyone that a 1970s reader could know, a neighbour, a brother or a friend. As the campaign text urging donations says: “your family may be the next in need”.
Another area the archive touches on is ECT (electroshock therapy), the most controversial of contemporary psychiatric therapies. Over the years, Mind has worked tirelessly to ensure that patients have all the information they need to make an informed decision about whether ECT is right for them. The Royal College of Psychiatrists first published guidance on the use of ECT in 1977 and a typescript report from the archive shows that representatives from Mind visited two unnamed psychiatric hospitals at the time to find out how the practical administration of ECT compared with the formal guidance.
The report aims to get as close as possible to the patient experience and this is why it is so compelling. Conditions in the waiting room and the patients’ feelings before and after the treatment are mentioned. In the first hospital the observer finds that the patients questioned were “prepared to have ECT, either because they had been helped by it previously, or because they would try anything to relieve their depression”. This communicates the reasons why ECT continues to be used today. The writer is able to make several observations on how treatments differ from official guidance. The experience of observation and conversation with patients enabled Mind to publish a Special Report for service users in the 1980s, ECT Pros, Cons and Consequences, giving a balanced overview of the treatment.
Effective community care has been one of Mind’s key causes since the 1940s. Photographs in the archive show campaigners including Mind’s National Director, Chair and Vice Chair assembled to present 100,472 signatures at the Department of Health on the day in 1995 that Tessa Jowell MP presented the Community Care (Rights to Mental Health Services) Bill in parliament. Stuck to the campaigner’s placards in the background it is just possible to make out Mind’s Breakthrough Campaign flyer, also in the archive. The eye-catching design outlines the demands of the petition. Causes such as ‘National standards for quality community care’ and ‘an end to dangerous prescribing of drugs’ resonate even today and are some of the causes Mind continues to lobby for.
The Mind archive is being catalogued in stages. The next tranche is expected to be available in the first half of 2015.
Author: Emma Hancox is Assistant Archivist (Digital Discovery and Delivery) at the Wellcome Library.