A long goodbye!

NSUN has been a huge part of my life over the last 10 years. Little did I know that when I joined as Managing Director in 2009 that my personal three year plan would stretch to 10! How did that happen?

Well, it’s been a position and experience that I’ve deeply valued. I met and worked with so many inspirational people that I’ve learnt a great deal from.

Being part of a growing network and surviving some difficult times has taken a particular amount of emotional labour and that’s not always easy to walk away from. But it’s definitely been the resilience, passion and solidarity of the membership that has kept me close and determined to see the network continue into the next decade and beyond.

During my time at NSUN I’ve battled with my mania, paranoia and the subsequent burnout, but the highs and lows have been tempered by some of the most unwavering support I’ve ever experienced and which I’ll never forget. There are way too many highlights to list but of course there are some things I have to mention, such as the widening use of the 4Pi Involvement standards, securing a place on the Independent Mental Health Act Review Advisory Panel, influencing the CQC Mental Health Act report, producing and promoting the Members’ Manifesto and securing a further three years funding.

We’re now facing one of the most significant periods of our personal and political lives. The solidarity of collectives such as NSUN is needed now more than ever. There is no other organisation that has taken on the responsibility of protecting and promoting our forgotten and ignored stories of the past; the challenges and opportunities of the present; and the potential for the future.

Over the last five years I’ve witnessed the ‘quietening’ of the collective, independent and direct voice. The value of user-led organisations and initiatives is not recognised and understood in quite the same way as it was 10 years ago. Has this been influenced by the appropriation of language; the move away from independent voice in Patient and Public Involvement; the political policies of austerity and cuts and the lack of accessible funding sources for smaller organisations?

There isn’t one clear explanation but many factors and it’s only the user-led collectives that will challenge this loss, that will fight to be heard and fight the injustice that we experience as individuals and collectives. NSUN has worked to sustain and strengthen our collective political voice over the last 10 years and I’m confident that it will be around to continue to do so over the next 10. 

So it’s with a mixture of emotions that I step down from my role as Managing Director on 31 December 2019. However, I’m very much looking forward to working with our newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Akiko Hart over the first three months of 2020. We will be working together to make sure that the transition and succession process is as well managed as it can be.

It’s a long goodbye but as Winnie the Pooh said “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

You can view Sarah's 'Farewell video' from the NSUN AGM here.