Helen Wadley

The focus on mental health has never been greater, but the CEO of Birmingham Mind, Helen Wadley says there is still much to do as the city marks the opening of its first wellbeing café this month


I started at Birmingham Mind in 1995 as a senior support worker and had a variety of different roles before becoming CEO in 2005. I love the charity and the Mind network (we are a Federated Structure). The local delivery by the local Minds, with the national campaigning that National Mind does, helps to make a strong structure for moving mental health services forward.


I feel extraordinarily lucky to be the CEO of Birmingham Mind. We are not perfect and there is always room for improvement, but we are a charity with more than 220 staff who regularly go the extra mile to help people have and attain the life they want. I spend a lot of time in Mental Health NHS meetings, particularly now that I have been elected chair of VCFSE Mental Health Collective (more than 120 VCFSE organisations in Birmingham and Solihull focusing on mental health/wellbeing organisations). But I also get to make great links with other organisations and grounded. (Birmingham’s first wellbeing café, see Business News) is our latest example of working with Living Well Consortium. I am proud of our partnership work – we can reach more people by working together and we can influence the mental health system for the better when we have a strong united voice.


Professionally, to see Birmingham Mind continue to flourish and thrive. Personally, I live with chronic pain and mobility issues and this has changed my view on what is important in my life. I now value spending time with family and friends, nurturing these relationships.


A strong memory I have is when I first met the CEO of the Mental Health Trust after I became CEO of Birmingham Mind. I couldn’t believe how far I had come as I was now meeting her as an equal, when 15 years before that I was a patient in that very same building. It was surreal, but it also helps me to keep my feet on the ground. Projects like grounded. make me proud to be involved in bringing support to people in their community, support that is normalising distress and normalising seeking help for distress.


If I could do my career over again, I wouldn’t do anything different. On a personal basis I would have travelled more as this is something I can’t do now.


I love the cultural richness of the city. It has so many wonderful parts and people that are truly focused on making life better for them and their neighbours.


Gardening. During Covid I had such a strong urge to tend seeds and plants through to them becoming beautiful flowers. I now have a garden that gives me great pleasure and relaxation – and is full of a lot of flowers!


If I had a magic wand, I would want to address the structural inequalities and discrimination in services and life in general. Until we have a more equal and accepting society, we will continue to have a growing mountain of mental health problems.