It is ironic that my involvement in the Collaborative has empowered me in making my decision to retire. I have been preaching the importance of building and maintaining relationships but fail to nurture my own relationships. One of those is my relationship with myself; in the past five years I have had a litany of health problems many of which would be diminished if I reduced my workload.
One of my earliest memories is not a joyful one. I was standing in the hallway at home with my brothers as my mother was being ‘taken away’ under a section. It saddens and angers me still that the family never discussed this even after her death in 1992. It was unmentionable. My mother was mentally very well for the last ten years of her life. My parents planned their retirement for a long time down to minute detail. They were preparing to move out of Dublin and my mother was already building her connections in their chosen new home area. Six months before my father’s retirement date mum was diagnosed with a cancer and died a few months later, she was 62. I do not wish to be in the same position. I am retiring in order to develop my relationship with myself and with those close to me while I can. My retirement will not diminish my passion to reduce the stigma of mental illness. No family should endure ‘ an unmentionable’ illness. This is more harmful than the illness.
In 2000 my brother took his own life, I was his ‘carer’, a role I had neither chosen or desired. His death made me question my abilities as a brother, a carer and as a GP. The Collaborative has given me the opportunity to resolve some of the demons that I had lived with following this tragedy.
I was embarrassed by the kind words from David Monk (Collaborative Chair pictured with Ray and Natalie Sutherland) at the Oval meeting and the thoughtful card and gifts. Embarrassed because I have already benefited more from the Collaborative than I have been able to contribute to it. Though I am retiring I shall remain a Lambeth resident and service user of health services and I would be honoured to be permitted to remain a committed member of the Collaborative and Living Well Network so that I can repay some of the debt I owe to the inspiring carers, service users, professionals and commissioners.
One of the enduring features of the Collaborative has been the acknowledgement that no service is or can be perfect and that no individual is or can be perfect. We can only do our best and always be willing to listen, to change and to improve. No individual or organisation can have all the answers or solutions. The Collaborative has and will continue to provide solutions but there will always been new issues and problems to resolve.
Ray was a member of the NHS Lambeth CCG Governing Body and was the Mental Health Lead and lead on Sexual Health.
We are sad to report that Ray passed away in May 2021.
Photos: Natalie Sutherland and Stacey Hemphill
Click here to read about the Collaborative event