We all need a little emotional help from time to time, and for activists the temptation can be to put their cause before their own well-being. In the UK we have an organisation called Counselling for Social Change which offers low cost counselling and retreats to help support activists in their work. This vital work is able to be offered at low cost because of donations that are made, and you can support them by giving to their crowdfunding appeal which has 15 days left.
I spoke with Emily one of the trustees of the charity about why she got involved.
“I have been an activist and campaigner most of my life. As a result of my involvement, I have had two breakdowns, the most recent one in 2011 as a direct result of my activism. In my case it was due to being targeted and harassed by the police, arbitrary arrests and assaults, and knowing some of the undercover cops and corporate spies who have infiltrated our movements. I should have sought help sooner, but I fell into the trap that so many of us do, in thinking that the work was too important to stop and look after my own mental health.” You can read more about Emily’s shocking experiences on Open Democracy, including her 75 arrests.
“I was lucky as I had money from police compensation to fund my own counselling, and also, living in Cornwall, was able to benefit from sea and endless skies and the power of nature in my recovery. My partner had just finished a counselling course and we decided to set up Counselling for Social Change both to provide free counselling over phone and Skype, but also to organise retreats where people could come and receive intensive counselling, and benefit from being in nature. We have a shepherd’s hut on an acre of land on a permaculture site and it is an amazing place to get away from everything.”
“It is becoming harder and harder to access long term therapeutic support on the NHS. Even when you are lucky enough to be able to do so, there is no guarantee you will see someone who has a political understanding of what you are doing, or how that affects you. For example, I saw a psychotherapist who said I was “raging against the state” because of issues with my father. Furthermore, with issues such as undercover policing, although it’s far more in the public domain now, many mental health professionals can treat you as if you’re paranoid if you start talking about undercovers or police harassment.”
We want to be part of the world we want to create – and creating that world has to take mental health seriously and offer proper support. This will enable us to be stronger, build stronger movements and help in our aim of achieving effective change.
“Activists are very good at looking after others, and not very good at looking after themselves. This project hopes to change this attitude. Due to generous donations and our last crowdfunding campaign, we were able to set up the retreat space and offer free counselling. This round of fundraising is to enable us to continue this work. We hope that people will continue to donate and support this work as it is vital to protect our mental health – and we need to be healthy for the massive battles we need to win if the planet is to have any future.”