It struck me recently how very much the world of charitable giving has changed in recent years. In Victorian times, the arts, research and the underprivileged relied on wealthy benefactors who were able to bestow large sums of money on their chosen causes.
As time went on, and the number of good causes proliferated, so these organisations tied to widen their donor body by tapping into the wider population through charity boxes, coffee mornings, fashion shows and perhaps even the odd gala dinner. These relied on local volunteers giving of their time and expertise for free – there were few professional fundraisers.
This changed, probably in the mid 1980’s around the time of Live Aid, where the power of mass donations was first realised. This was great news for the larger, more established charities who could mobilise a paid workforce to organise national events such as Race for Life (Cancer Research), Red Nose Day and BBC Children in Need, but has this been at a cost to the smaller or volunteer led charities who do not have the vast resources of funding and personnel to organise such events?
I do feel that, as a nation, we are exceptionally generous, supporting a huge proliferation of charitable causes both locally and nationally – anything from the local hospice or animal rescue centre to national medical research and international aid programmes. Millions of us give of our time and money to support causes dear to our heart.
I remember many years ago, the landlord of our local pub told me that he had two collecting tin on the bar, one for animals and the other for children. He never failed to be amazed that the one for animals was always twice as heavy that its counterpart.
This got me thinking that if we prefer to give to animals than children, how much more difficult is it to get people to donate to mental health causes that any other charity. Although much more is being done now to raise awareness of mental health, it still has a stigma attached to it, and many feel uncomfortable talking about depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and suicidal feelings.
Mental health issues are not sexy, nor are they fluffy and cute, but they do affect so many of us either personally or through family and friends. Coping with the fall out of mental health is complex both for the sufferer and those around them – it is not usually a case of taking a tablet or having some therapy – it is a situation that has to be managed continually, minute by minute, hour by hour and so often the professionals are not there when they are needed the most.
This is when organisations such as Samaritans is so essential – when depression hits at 4am; when the medication is no longer working on a Saturday afternoon and all the professionals are off for the weekend; when the straw finally breaks the camel’s back and there is no one else to turn to. Samaritans are there to try to support people and help them get to a place where they can cope, wait for the professional help, let the medication kick in or just put everything into perspective.
This blog has nothing really to do with my professional work within Fabric, but by volunteering for Samaritans, I have learnt so much about myself and gained new skills which are invaluable in my working environment.