Meet the Local Associations

11: Harlow by M. C. S. Johnstone Miss Johnstone is Hon.

Secretary of the Harlow Local


Harlow was designated as 25th new town on March 1947 By 30th September 1963 15,729 new houses and flats had been a

completed, 13,874 people employed in 90 new


firms, 23 been



schools had for 15,760

children, 258 new shops built and 201,732 square feet of office space com-


arlow HARLOW





set in

to enlist interest by of letters to the local newspaper did not achieve much success, but the idea was steadily pursued by building up personal support for the scheme. A steering committee was formed and the Harlow Association for Mental Health held its inaugural meeting on 19th November, 1962. well Today, the Association is well supported and is steadily extending its


the of Essex. Essex. Like most 0? of L^e County the new towns it was grafted on t0 atl an existing community and of the pr |jr rwSent twSent population of 61,670, approxiy ^>000 are resident in the old t0\v n- 6,000 The The Harlow Development q0 LrPoration which was set up up in 1947 a the town for a target pa Planned the pu'ation of 80,000. s pu,ati0n




v8e new area ^habitants inhabitants came ?St London and at first



then^ t^11^one^it 1







?undings r?Undings

and settle down in a without without relatives and

nearby Wei| W^ij'ends nown- All known.

are now


residents w'th a new h?use> house, in a new Where where there is often a great dea]' deaj' of "L .?f that well-known disease? with the Jones"?and up w^th He?re*>Ing8 UP Mie new friends have to be made. of the strains arising l^ese these circumstances led some , ean ?htful citizens in Harlow, in the ci^tj ^60s, to feel that a local assofor ^or mental health would be * Suable aluable social organisation. The


f f


social club

The first stage was to decide on the scope and nature of the Association's work. After much discussion and a careful examination of the needs of the area, it was agreed that the first aim should be to establish a social club for people who had received or were receiving psychiatric treatment.* In Harlow, as in other new towns, loneliness was seen to be one of the most pressing social problems, and it was obvious that it was most serious for people whose illness limited their opportunities and abilities to make social contacts. the social club The first need of the was for premises; the Association had virtually no funds, and accommoda-

vastly different setting from lem?ne they were used to. The probLsr ?f people who have to leave the:S $Ur familiar (even if unsatisfactory) SUrrr a

area oldf8-e riends



area irea

fr0JVareness ^0mWareness earlv^

v'0ri vT

*See *See


photograph taken at club


this page.

hard to find, but the ComAssociation came to our aid, _nd were willing to let us have the use of one of their community centres on one night per week at a nominal rent. It was also agreed that as people became members of our club, a portion of the subscription should be paid to the Community Association. Members then became members also of the Community Association, and were entitled to take part in its and other activities. This courses arrangement has the advantage of emphasising the function of the club, which is to help people to begin to take part in ordinary social activities, not to be an end in itself. tion




the club

The Sub-Committee to run the club was set up in the first instance from members of the Executive Committee but gradually some club members have been brought on to the committee, so that it will eventually be run entirely by the members. To begin with, a wide and varied programme was planned which included darts, visits to the theatre or cinema in a group, record evenings, mystery tours and talks with practical demonstrations. The programme was printed, and sent with an explanatory letter to all general practitioners in the area, suggesting that they should send along anyone they thought would benefit from attending, or, if it seemed more suitable, that they should put members of the Association in touch with the individual, so that a more perbe could sonal invitation given. Although the committee wanted to help everyone it could, it felt that a small new club could not run successfully if it took on too wide a variety of problems. The committee had to say, therefore, that the club could not accept psychopaths or subnormals, but these were the only restrictive conditions. The club opened on 2nd May, 1963, and on the first evening, 25 members and guests arrived. During its relatively short existence, the club has gone from strength to strength, and the average attendance is now about

15. It meets

activities the






week, and






suggested are

popular, especially darts, the gro11outings and talks on such subjects flower arranging and home maint^ ance-


Many members talked of the din1,' culty of tension preventing sleep, ^ unanimously decided they would M a short session on relaxation at eaC

venture has This launched only recently, but we *e' it will be well worth while. | In Harlow a new general is being built, with a psychiatric




and take


already function!11,J the in-patient unit, which 30 psychiatric patients, is planfle, clinic


to open in 1965. The

Committee an

hospital have sh^interest in the L Association since the beginning, have encouraged its work in m3" Staff



sympathetic practical



Successful evening In October 1963 the club held



anyone who was a very succe,\ ful evening. Another occasion wh1 ( was particularly enjoyable was , Christmas party for the children members. This came about in interesting way. One of the merribe., mentioned that her little boy that he wanted to visit the c' "where Mummy went on Thursday, It occurred to us that quite a nurty. must ' children members' of since and curious about the club, would not be very convenient L them to attend the regular eve11'; meetings, it was planned that tH. should have a function for the ( This Christmas party selves. splendid event. It is important ?l stress that for this and for the "?L ' night", the members made all preparations, including the catefl' open



interested, and this





i Members of the club are proud of the fact that this is club, not run for them, but by g, with them. When people join it find friends who are truly intere5 in them and gradually they learn,p







aiJ they



^ benefit


easily> but help others

accordingly. are simply

ofA'lthewho"63attend p








f '.ents, ex-patients or helpers. The of unity which has been thus is vital to the club; it is, in tfl> its foundation stone.



difficulties '^Hcial portage 0f finance has been


In ln? problem



the Association. ?rder to raise funds for equippublicity and lecture courses, a and cheese party was held last It provided the opporto inform townspeople of the taxation's existence, and with the of the Liaison Department of or development Corporation, all the iJ^isations, voluntary bodies and 'n area were inv^te^ t0 lhe One hundred people turned party. Up be^ nand when all the accounts had ty settled, we found the Association s richer by ?60. The Association

fij0e timber.


also benefited from the many contacts which came as a result of this social function. The financial position of the Association was further eased in December when the Urban District Council gave a grant to help with the running costs of the club, and to develop other plans in view for the future. The Association has not yet been able to give as much attention as it would like to educational work, but informal talks have been given to various groups, and more are planned. In the coming year, lectures are being organised for a wider audience and now that the club is going well, additional time will be devoted to

extending public education work, so as to make the general public more

aware of the problems and needs of the mentally disordered. For further information about Harlow Local Association and membership details if you live in this area, write to the Hon. Secretary, Miss M. Johnstone, Harlow Hospital, Harlow.

Meet Harlow Local Association.

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