Mental health chair to retire

By Jessica Elgot, November 4, 2010
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Speaking out at the Jami gala dinner at Claridge’s were Sophia Levy, Daniel Saunders and Anthony Julius

Speaking out at the Jami gala dinner at Claridge’s were Sophia Levy, Daniel Saunders and Anthony Julius

The chair of a Jewish mental health charity, 87-year-old Irene Wilder, is to step down after 15 years with the organisation.

Mrs Wilder made the emotional announcement on Tuesday night at the gala dinner of the Jewish Association for the Mentally Ill.

She said: "It is time to pass the work on to someone younger. I am not leaving Jami, I will always support the organisation."

The charity helps more than 250 people at any one time to recover from mental health problems including anorexia and schizophrenia.

Mrs Wilder praised the "courage" of three young people who Jami has helped through mental illness, who told their stories at the dinner.

One of the speakers, Sophia Levy, who attended the dinner just hours after leaving hospital, said: "I knew I could count on 'my family', a family with a deep understanding of mental illness, a family who don't judge, deny or blame. That is how I felt when Tanya [Harris], Jami's mental health leader, came to the hospital.

"Now I am about to be discharged, I have a safe place to live. Jami makes what seems like unliveable lives brighter, they lift that thick veil of depression."

Guest speaker, lawyer Anthony Julius, said he was "overwhelmed" by the speeches. "I wanted to wait to hear these stories before I decided on what to talk about tonight - please forgive me if I am a little emotional."

The dinner, held at Claridge's in central London, raised more than £170,000 and was attended by nearly 200 guests. Chief executive Laurie Rackind said the charity was now beginning the process of searching for a new chairman.

    Last updated: 5:15pm, November 4 2010