Michael Cassells, Chairman of Mind in Furness
This is a personal reflection from the former Chair of Mind in Furness Trustees.
Michael Cassells joined Mind in Furness 12 years ago as a service user then became a volunteer and trustee. In September Michael stepped down as a trustee to become a Community Engagement Worker employed by Mind in Furness and Every Life Matters. He attended SongPath as a volunteer to support participants that had mobility problems or needed additional emotional support. SongPath coincided with the end of Michael’s 5 years as chair and was influential in his decision to make some personal and career changes.
In preparation for SongPath 2019 a song and poem was taught to members, volunteers and staff of Mind in Furness about ‘Hope’. ‘Hope’ indeed is the thing that we strive to find in dark times. SongPath 2019 allowed people to explore ways of finding ‘Hope’ in the calm of the Furness countryside, in the company of others, in music and creative words and in the simple act of having a day out with friends.
Mind has a mission statement that begins ‘We don’t give up until…’ The team behind SongPath spent many hours visiting our Wellbeing Centre to work with people using music as a way to relax and find encouragement in the words and patterns. For many of us the idea of joining in with an Opera or Classical singer seemed a long way from our everyday experience of music. The very first session quickly brought people together by demonstrating that we all have a sound and personality that is both unique and important to others. Some of the group found themselves on stage with Jess Dandy and a choir joining in the chorus of Hope is the thing with feathers. An enjoyable achievement for some who constantly live with the fears and doubts associated with long term mental ill health.
The day of SongPath was a therapeutic experience that allowed us:
to benefit from reflection on words & music;
to enjoy a shared experience of walking & travel with others;
to appreciate our local environment
to engage with views by being encouraged to look out, around and beyond horizons limited by anxiety and depression.
A theme of the event was ‘There is no path; the path is made by walking.’ We benefited from combining Songs and Paths. Another important principle to the work of Mind in Furness is allowing people to find a way to adjust to or recover from distress and crisis. SongPath’s simple but effective message that Hope can be found by taking a step on a path connected with many of us. For many years I felt frozen and trapped by my mental health, SongPath was a timely reminder that we can still find strength and solutions by being an active participant in life rather than hiding away.
SongPath affirmed that good mental health is important to all not just service users or patients and helped spread of awareness raised of two local Mind branches. People from the wider community all enjoyed and benefitted from the experiences on the day. The generous donations from participants and the voluntary support from performers, stewards and organisers has significantly benefited both local Minds.
We are eagerly waiting for the opportunity to prepare for SongPath 2020.
Rufus Harrington, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist & Course Director at University of Cumbria:
“SongPath is an experience of integrating the science of psychotherapy with community, song, music & a magical journey through the Cumbrian landscape. Walking the SongPath is a journey of spiritual & psychological integration. It is a healing pathway and & an initiation into a wider world of expanded awareness. It is also tremendous fun & a truly magical day out.”
Martin Roscoe, Concert Pianist:
“It is a pleasure & an honour to be involved in the SongPath project. It is a brilliant idea to have an event which brings music & walking together in beautiful surroundings in order to relieve some of the difficulties & stresses of modern life. The first SongPath in June 2019 was an amazing success & I hope to be involved in many more.”