The Compassionate Stroud Project – Stroud 4 Mental Wealth

EARLIER this month (Thursday, June 7), the inaugural public meeting of the Compassionate Stroud Project was held in St Laurence’s Church, Stroud.

A focused session explored what those who have visited Frome in Somerset have learnt from witnessing their pioneering community health initiative that has been receiving international acclaim for its success and sheer boldness.

Our meeting of over 30 of Stroud’s well-being ‘movers and shakers’ also shared what we have learnt from our own community work in Stroud District and beyond.

The evening was facilitated by Trish Dickinson (an international trainer in non violence) and chaired by Cllr Skeena Rather (Lab.) of Stroud Central; and attenders included Erik Wilkinson of Transition Towns, Jacqueline Smith from Paganhill Community Group, and Cllr Jonathan Edmunds (Green) of Randwick.

Participants were asked for their vision of a compassionate town.

And the following ideas were shared:

• That no one is isolated.

• That everyone has access to equal opportunities and choices about how they live.

• That people feel a sense of belonging, love and warmth.

• That it’s easy to meet your neighbours.

• That there are connection events.

• That existing groups are connected with one another.

• That there is a directory of resources and organisations.

• There is a way to get this information ‘out there’.

• That there are street parties.

• That there is ‘a third space’.

• That we are pro-active.

• That we reach/teach/model to young people.

• That we are inclusive.

Participants ‘buts’, concerns and fears were also discussed.

Finally, ideas for next steps and actions included:

• A Stroud meet-your-neighbour day.

• Handwritten flyers to each house re events.

• Stroud Street party weekend.

• Creating a community directory.

• Mapping what already exists.

• Appointing Street Co-ordinators.

• Drawing upon district councillors and town councillors for local knowledge and resources.

• Street games – e.g. games outside the Sub rooms,

• A town crier.

• A survey asking “What do you love about Stroud?”

• A volunteer bank and youth service bank.

• Stroud Pensioners Service.

• A community well-being building.

About the project

The Compassionate Stroud Project is a new grass-roots, non-party political organisation aiming to bring together all of the many local community initiatives that are responding creatively to the burgeoning mental-health problems (broadly defined) that now touch so many lives, as our society faces an ever-deepening social and economic crisis manifesting at every level of society.

An extraordinary range of initiatives already exists, and yet they are often labouring away with little if any reference to (or even knowledge of) other organisations working to the same shared end – viz. the well-being and flourishing of the people of Stroud and its environs.

We see one of our core tasks to be letting all organisations know about each others’ existence, such that a mental-wealth synergy can be created locally, as has been happening in a well publicised community initiative in Frome (Somerset) in recent years.

Why mental wealth?

We wish to complement and enhance, and not replace in any way, the great work that our NHS does in an “impossible” funding environment.

As well as supporting the sterling work of our beleaguered NHS and calling for adequate government funding, therefore, we are developing:

• A movement that challenges the medical profession’s vast over-reliance on medication that merely manages symptoms, foisted on it by the pharmaceutical companies and people’s conditioned wish for “quick fixes”.

• A wider concept of what brings about lasting good health, such as attention to diet and exercise, eradicating social isolation, and addressing toxic, stress-driven working environments. We advocate change to healthier personal environments in all aspects of our lives.

• A collaboration of people from all areas and echelons of society – from sufferers, users and the recovered, to families and the wider community, and including (but not controlled by) “experts” and “professionals”. Above all, we wish to engage people who will share experiences, and people who will listen deeply rather than merely diagnose and “pathologise” human suffering.

• Fund-raising initiatives to create leaflets and other street-stall materials, fund workshops, conferences and DVDs, and develop websites to build the campaign.