Mental health, or the empowering or disempowering of people in their homes; with their family, friends and co-workers; in their communities; and in the country they live in could be one of the biggest causes of ill health. It's said that the constant exposure to air-brushed beauties in magazines and impossibly perfect people in our soap opera "true to life" stories on Television causes people to be dissatisfied with their partners and dissatisfied with their lives.
For many (especially the youth who have the energy to take action), this leads to graffiti and anti-social behaviour (trying to create and publicise an identity), and could result in a custodial sentence leading to a spiral of fighting back against authority. For the less energetic, it can lead to despair, with the accompanying physical ailments (I feel bad at work so I get a bad back which prevents me going to work so I feel bad at home because I'm not at work so I get depressed so I really can't go to work, and so on).
Black and Minority Ethnic groups (BME) have an added burden - where they've come to Britain in search of a better life they don't have the established support networks, and where they have been here for generations they may have suffered generations of abuse targetted solely for the colour of their skin/ their religious practice/ all sorts of other reasons.
The government has set targets for BME inclusion within the 2007 National Indicators, and many local authorities are waking up to this. A city near me has already tried to set up a BME Community Organisations Network for the city, but failed when it appeared to focus too heavily on the local authority agenda and seemed to the community organisations not to listen.
BECON (part of the new steering group) invited me to advise on the structure of workshops which would engage local BME community organisations, and would allow the community organisations themselves to shape the new network whilst at the same time ensuring that the local authority was prepared to fund it.
We started with a report on the needs, established a business case for a rigorous scope of existing provision, and are currently (Sept 2008) refining the shape of the network using lessons learnt from other city networks in the region. It's an exciting proposition, and one I'm very honoured to play a part in.