One in five people severely affected by mental illness live in supported housing, and I hate to think what the alternative would be for many of these people without this provision. Unfortunately, government proposals to change how these services are funded have put the future of supported housing, and the recovery of people living with a mental illness, at risk.
My big brother died on Tuesday. It was a massive, horrible shock, even though we have always known that people with his condition live on average twenty years less than the rest of us. My Dad lived to 82, my Mum to 88. Donald was 62. His condition was schizophrenia. His illness, not mine, is the real reason I campaign for better understanding and treatment of mental illness, not least because people who have schizophrenia do have such shortened life expectancy.
Rob attributes the happiness in his life to his relationship with Gill, his wife of 24 years. They met when Rob was in a psychiatric hospital in Northampton. A whole food cooperative - Daily Bread - employed patients from the hospital, and staff to support them as a way of aiding their recovery. Gill was a member, and Rob was one of the patients she supported.
Living with schizophrenia can often be very frightening and can be enough of a barrier in itself to sustaining relationships without the added stigma and discrimination. None of us are immune to mental ill health and we have a human duty to show solidarity, open-mindedness and compassion for those who are living with mental health problems.
Through her own struggles, Yvonne has one clear message about success for those going through mental health issues: "You can have a life, second to none. It can be as simple a thing as having a physical condition that you manage on a daily basis. You might have mental health issues, but it's not the final death knell that it once was. It's just a door into another type of future, and it could be a future more enhanced than your past."
I love performing my show, mostly because of the second half where I have the privilege of sitting on stage and letting the audience take over to ask, answer or discuss whatever. For those 20-30 minutes it feels like I'm with my people that we're the same under our fronts with all our vulnerabilities we need to hide.
Imagine being unable to stand everything about yourself. Your voice, your thoughts, your body, your personality. I can't now. Though years ago, I came pretty close. And if Jonny Benjamin can be honest, then so can I... It's several years ago now and feels like a different lifetime. I've been a happy person, getting even happier year on year since. But back then, after hitting rock bottom, in order to survive, I drew a line under these experiences and locked the memories away. I shoved them all in a box, along with my Shadow Self, so that they - and it - couldn't hurt me or anyone else anymore.
Forget the 'mental' and just think 'illness'. I was ill, seriously ill, three times in my life. I was in hospital for three months on each occasion and took a long while afterwards to convalesce. But now I have been well for many years. I do not take medication. I am capable and active - I am married, with four wonderful children, a career and a happy, fulfilling life. Ergo, I am better.