A message from Ernestine, our first member

"I joined up as the very first member of Rethink Mental Illness right at the start, and am very proud of what the movement has achieved in that time.

I responded to a letter printed in The Times one morning in 1972. It spoke deeply to me about one man’s experiences with his son’s mental illness: the struggles, the stigma and discrimination, the shortcomings of the systems around him, the lack of information, and the strain and isolation.

As a long-term carer for my dear brother Philip for so many years, I remember how it resonated to see these words written down. I couldn’t believe it! It’s bad enough today, but back then people really didn’t talk about mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. Immediately I wanted to share my situation with like minded people and I wasn’t alone - others responded to John’s heartfelt story too. We met up and instantly became stronger – a force for change.

I remember how it felt to share our stories, tips and experiences. People really understood. We left those meetings feeling stronger and more confident. We were like a little community, we were united, and we were together. Our first meeting, packed into a small west London flat, was the start of something big. Our group became the national charity Rethink Mental Illness."

Now that group has grown to become an army with a core membership powerful enough to have sway in political arenas and really influence decisions made at the highest level for the benefit of all those affected by mental illness.

Ernestine Adams