A balmy Auckland spring morning welcomed delegates to the TheMHs pre-conference consumer and the family and whānau forums.
The participants from both forums enjoyed a shared opening powhiri which set the day up beautifully. The family and whānau forum committee presented the consumer forum delegates with a gift of a peace lily, a fun fruit face and chocolate with good wishes for an inspirational, fun and learning day. The consumer forum committee reciprocated with a gift of chocolate for the family and whānau participants. They thanked family for never giving up and explained that like the chocolate, families are sweet, uplifting and sustaining and above all chocolate goes really well with nuts.
Gareth Edwards, multi-talented MC opened the consumer forum with a rousing self-written song. Taimi Allen from Changing Minds took participants through an interesting way of how to talk to others about what we experience. This created a lot of conversation during the morning tea and clearly piqued peoples thinking.
Following Taimi, Eduardo Vega, president and chief executive of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, and director of the Center for Dignity, Recovery and Empowerment, spoke about using effective ways to influence change and we looked at that together. Table groups were able to role play and explore what different roles and ways of being was like. This gave people a chance to understand different ways of looking at the same issue.
There was a spirited discussion about telling our stories - when to, why, how much and when not to, that was really open and honest. People were so generous, brave and honest in the sharing of themselves in the discussions and feedback, it was astonishing.
Gareth kept everything bouncing along with great skill and energy through the morning, with participants remarking "it's been such a gift of a day so far!"
After lunch there were two concurrent sessions. I went to the pecha cucha session which consists of 20 slides at 20 seconds each for each, with nine presentations in total. This was brilliant - fast paced, varied, and fascinating subjects. Everything from art projects, co-design, sublime stuff around a wellbeing therapeutic community, local networks, addiction leadership group, a happiness project and more. There are such wonderful things happening. People I talked to said they felt so hopeful and rejuvenated in their passion from attending the day.
My tummy muscles are still sore after the following laughter yoga session. What a perfect way to let off steam and be joyfilled. Thank you Gareth!
I've walked away feeling it was an absolute blessing of a day, amongst talented courageous imaginative and powerful peers. I'm beyond proud to be part of this collective.