On World Mental Health Day, Buckinghamshire Mind received our Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service presented by Sir Henry HM Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire.
The event was held at Bucks County Museum and Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery and it was a joyous day celebrating our volunteers and this amazing achievement.
Presentations highlighted all of the vital mental health services we deliver and Buckinghamshire Mind’s continued priority to ensure access, prevention and recovery to those in need of mental health support throughout Buckinghamshire.
Buckinghamshire Mind, the mental health charity, has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
The award recognises the incredible contribution of the charity’s volunteers and the huge benefit they bring to the community. Buckinghamshire Mind has over 570 volunteers who are integral to the delivery of many of the charity’s mental health services. Over two thirds of these volunteers are children and young people who have trained to be Peer Supporters within their own schools. All the volunteers enable Buckinghamshire Mind to deliver services at a scale in the community that it simply could not do without them.
Buckinghamshire Mind’s Chair of the Board of Trustees, Tori Roddy, attended a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Her Majesty The Queen, on 29th May, to represent all the charity’s volunteers and celebrate the award to Buckinghamshire Mind of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. She was accompanied by Andrea McCubbin, Chief Executive of Buckinghamshire Mind.
“As a volunteer myself, I am absolutely delighted that Buckinghamshire Mind’s volunteers have been recognised with this most prestigious award. The contribution of our volunteers is invaluable, enabling us to better respond to demand and help so many more people. I was deeply honoured to be able represent all our wonderful volunteers at the Royal Garden Party and I’m looking forward to celebrating with my fellow volunteers when the award is officially presented to Buckinghamshire Mind.” Tori Roddy, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Buckinghamshire Mind.
Buckinghamshire Mind is a local mental health charity that supports people across Buckinghamshire. Last year they created the Bucks Mind Guide, a fantastic resource with helpful links to all kinds of services that can support people with mental health problems.
So, in my bid to make a chatbot for everything, I started thinking about how I could take the masses of information in the guide and convert it into a conversational experience and build a chatbot. My first thought was that because there was so many options for users to ask about and the bot to provide answers for, it couldn’t use button like most of my other bots and would need to recognise keywords and respond accordingly. I considered using Dialogflow (I used used it a while ago when it was API.AI) to handle picking up the keywords, and may still do so later, but to keep it simple I started with using Labels to pick up the keyword entered by the user and jump to the section of the flow that could provide an answer related to that keyword.
Now, I just need to add to the number of keywords the bot can respond to, and make the messages more friendly.
I’ve been doing some data analysis work for Bucks Mind to look at deprivation factors across Buckinghamshire and how these factors might affect the mental health of residents who may then need the services of Bucks Mind.
There are 32,844 wards across the UK, each with it’s own Multiple Deprivation Index rank and ranking for factors that affect deprivation such as barriers to housing and services, education, skills & training, and employment.
Barriers to housing and services
This shows how wide the problem is with some of the areas surrounding the town as greatly affected as those in the town.
Educational Skills and Training
There is a very pronounced east/west split for Educational, Skills and Training, and some wards in Aylesbury Vale are in the 10% most deprived in the UK and the majority of Aylesbury is in the bottom 50%.
Employment also shows quite a divide between the east and west areas of Aylesbury and again the majority of the town is in the bottom 50%.
I attended a meeting of the Accommodation Subcommittee to consider how we can ensure the buildings used by Bucks Mind are fit for purpose for our current needs and what the future needs of the charity might be.
It also bought up some interesting questions around where our service users live compared to where our services are provided, where areas of need might be, and how we might be able to map all of this in a way that guides the future development of services.
As I was driving home I also thought about how it’s possible to take a ‘digital’ approach (using data to drive decision-making) using non-digitally obtained information (the location of current and possible service users).
This year’s Annual General Meeting of Buckinghamshire Mind included a really good overview of how the organisation has progressed over the past year and all the new services and partnerships that have been developed.
We were also privileged to have the rt Hon John Bercow, the speaker for the house of commons, as our guest speaker. John talked about how mental health issues can affect anyone, from any area of the country, and any age. He also talked about how the demand for mental health support will always exceed what is available from the NHS, and how important it is that charities like Bucks Mind are there for people who need support.
We had some difficult discussions at today’s board meeting, and had to make decisions that feel like a compromise between what is best for the service users and what might be better for the organisation in the long run.
Having to make these kinds of decisions is exactly why a charity needs a board of trustees with a diverse range of skills and broad experience, to bring different opinions to the discussion, and a good chair to ensure that all opinions are heard and considered, and that a clearly understood decision is reached.
As Bucks Mind’s board of trustees grows in size with each new recruit and each board member gets to know each other with every meeting, I think we are becoming a board that can balance complicated and conflicting discussion and reach decisions that are as good as they can be for all concerned.