Hundreds of people from around the world tuned in to a unique fundraising event held by Jami, the community’s mental health charity.
Hosted by the Countdown presenter and community activist Rachel Riley, the hour-long web event featured cameo messages from a variety of household names — including Dame Maureen Lipman, Stephen Fry, Vanessa Feltz, Claire Balding and Howard Jacobson.
But the main focus was on Jami’s work and its recipients. The pandemic has had enormous mental health impact as well as physical problems, and Jami’s workload has skyrocketed as the numbers of people who have suffered from depression due to isolation have risen to unheard of proportions.
As Laurie Rackind, the charity’s chief executive, told viewers, it has cost Jami £600,000 more than usual to provide services, “The past 10 months have been the most challenging of my career,” he said, noting that “the mental health impact of the virus is likely to be far more long-lasting than the virus itself”.
Jami has had to adapt and change, closing its four London hubs and its Headroom Cafe in Golders Green; instead it has taken on more staff, and is delivering hot meals directly to clients who might have dropped in for lunch at one of the hubs. New cases have risen by 110 per cent, and 25 per cent more staff have been recruited to provide on-line or phone mentoring, occupational therapy and guidance.
Some of those who have benefited from Jami’s work agreed to take part in emotionally powerful short films to talk about how the charity has helped them. Alex, who has Asperger’s syndrome, and his mother Caroline, spoke of the help they had received. Caroline said: “Jami will turn your life around completely”.
Jonny Benjamin, who received an MBE for his mental health campaigning, was famously talked down from jumping off a bridge by a complete stranger. He was filmed in conversation with Susan Garcia, whose 51-year-old son Simon tragically committed suicide last year. They spoke of the “ripple effect” of suicide on bereaved families, and the importance of Jami’s separate support groups for mothers and fathers of people suffering from mental health issues.
Adam Dawson, the Jami chairman, concluded the event but reminded viewers of the scale of the challenge facing the community. “Ensuring people don’t feel alone makes a huge difference”, he said. Jami has focused on the sufferers themselves, but also on their families, giving them the opportunity to learn how to help.
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