Selina Aktar, a peer worker and expert-by-experience with the North London Mental Health Partnership, is featuring alongside comedian Michael Palin and England footballer Jordan Henderson in a new exhibition from Rankin and NHS Charities Together, celebrating 75 years of NHS charities.
Selina, who works at St Ann’s Hospital, is one of 14 NHS staff, patients and volunteers starring in ‘Love and Charity: A History of Giving in the NHS’– which celebrates the vital role charities have played throughout the health service’s history, ahead of the NHS’ 75th anniversary on 5th July. Led by NHS Charities Together, the national charity caring for the NHS, and internationally renowned photographer Rankin, all portraits will be displayed at Saatchi gallery in London from 31st May- 11th June.
A Peer/Lived Experience Manager at St Ann’s Hospital and a passionate advocate for charity funded mental health support for NHS staff, Selina has experienced significant mental health challenges herself, including schizophrenia. In her role, Selina now offers 1:1 and group mentoring for her peers, and her personal/lived experiences allow her to better support others. Selina has seen the immense value of mental health support for both herself and colleagues – and a project she has personally benefitted from is the Open Minds project. Funded by NHS Charities Together and Barnet Charity, it helps support NHS staff mental health through art, music and dance workshops.
Selina said: “Working in the NHS can be intense – sometimes it’s sad and painful, sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it can leave you feeling like you could have done more. In my role, mentoring service users and peers, I often feel like a sponge – soaking up everyone else’s challenges. The Open Minds workshop gives me and other staff an outlet through art, music, and dance. Through my own personal journey – having to live with schizophrenia – I know how important this is. If staff don’t look after themselves, they are not going to be able to support others, so mental health initiatives like these really are vital.”
There are over 230 NHS charities in the UK, and together they help our health service go further than would be possible with government funding alone. They fund innovative research and pioneering new technologies, accommodation, and support to make hospital feel less like hospital, and extra services so more of us can access better care.
Rankin, who has photographed the likes of the Queen, David Bowie, Madonna and Kate Moss, adds: “The thing I’ve learned from all these people is how much of massive contribution NHS charities make to the national health service. You don’t realise the scale of support that’s out there – they fund research and new technologies, accommodation and support for patients, and extra services so more of us can access better care. I used to work in the NHS but honestly had no idea, and it really has been eye opening.”
Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive at NHS Charities Together, said: “It’s been incredibly inspiring meeting Selina, and hearing her story. 75 years after the NHS was founded, charity support has never been more important, and with your help we can continue to help the NHS for generations to come. On 5 July, you can support the charity that means the most to you and celebrate 75 years of the NHS by hosting an NHS Big Tea party. We hope some of these stories show the astonishing impact one person’s generosity can have.”
Jinjer Kandola MBE, Chief Executive of the North London Mental Health Partnership said: “It is wonderful to hear Selina’s story and I’m delighted that she is part of this exhibition that pays tribute to NHS staff. Our Partnership is full of amazing, committed hard-working people who are proud to be part of the NHS and it is wonderful that the nation is celebrating the organisation, and the people that work for it, as it marks its 75th birthday.”
‘Love and Charity: A History of Giving in the NHS’ will be exhibited at the Saatchi gallery in London from 31st May – 11th June 2023 and is free to the public.
To find out more information about how you can support your local NHS charity visit www.nhsbigtea.co.uk