Their Untold Stories

“Their Untold Stories" was a book written by service users, staff and trustees and stands as a record of work from the past 20 years by Granby Community Mental Health Group, Mary Seacole House and The Advocacy Project. It provided an opportunity for people who used the services of the organisation to tell their life stories in their own words.  

Some tell their stories through poetry and others find art the best medium to express themselves. A further important dimension of the book is that it gives members an opportunity to reflect on the services being provided for their well-being by both statutory and voluntary sectors. They identify their needs and suggest how these can best be met. The book concludes by drawing out some key themes and issues which need to be considered by those responsible for providing services, in particular, to black and racial minority communities with mental health needs.

A wider social issue that has been revealed in the stories is the strong link between child sexual abuse, physical abuse, Children's Homes and mental illness. Although there are now systems in place, which are intended to protect children, those links remain strong as evidenced by the media coverage on the experiences of children some of whom die because of abuse.

The book was featured in the Society section of the “Guardian” as well as in their website.

Following article taken from The Guardian, Wednesday 6 May 2009

A rundown four storey Georgian terrace in the Toxteth area of central Liverpool, probably built on the back of slave trade money, couldn’t have been the most propitious location for a day centre for black mentally ill adults.  But 18 years after it opened its doors, Granby Community Mental Health Group’s drop-in and advocacy project, at the now immaculate Mary Seacole House, offers rights advice, recreational activities, care and a calming environment to 90 people, six days a week.

And to ensure that its legacy endures, seven members’ life stories have been documented in a book called Their Untold Stories, to be launched later this week at a black mental health conference at Liverpool Convention Centre.

Edited by the centre’s co-founder and Hope University emeritus professor Ntombenhle Protasia Khoti Torkington – known as “Pro” for short – the book features clients’ histories in the form of artwork, poetry and prose, which are cathartic and morale-boosting exercises.  Torkington, born in South Africa, qualified as a nurse and midwife and then came to the UK to get specialist paediatric training at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where she worked as a ward sister before going back into education.

She says of the book:  “I asked people when they first realised they were ill, and then to what they attributed their illness.  What unfolded was often rooted in serious sexual violence, long term physical abuse and racial discrimination.  I also encouraged contributors to consider the voluntary and statutory sector services available to them, and to suggest solutions for their own individual needs.  Our book concludes by pinpointing key issues that providers should consider when delivering services to mainly black and racial minority communities with mental health needs.”

It logs Mary Seacole House’s success in keeping members out of hospital and endorses the links between a childhood in care and poor mental health.  It also supports the request by staff – the nine full time staff and part timers are supported by Liverpool Primary Care Trust, the City Council and Mersey Care NHS Mental Health Trust – for extra premises to cater for the centre’s 20 daily visitors.

Two weekly art sessions in a small basement, which is also used for IT and snooker, aren’t enough to nurture members’ burgeoning artistry, but this hasn’t deterred one member from attending the centre four days a week since 2005.  Following years of discrimination, illness and prison, he found understanding at Mary Seacole House.

“Dictating my story and having my pictures in the book gave me confidence and greater self trust”.  “But those negative feelings from the past never go.  My mother, being a white woman in Liverpool with five black kids, had it very hard.  And being black in Liverpool in them days was always bad.  I was illiterate too, years before they called it dyslexia and gave you help.  I experienced prisons, hospitals and sectioning and I still avoid authority.”

The book presents guidelines for running a non-medical drop in for mainly black mentally ill adults, as well as displaying their talents – which Torkington hopes will help to tackle the stigma these people face every day.


Pick up your copy from Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre, 4 Princes Road, Liverpool L8 1TH

for £5 R.R.P. £20 (all proceeds from sales go back into the charity and supporting our members).

Contact us on: 0151 707 0319 to arrange a suitable pick up time.