Caro Swanson’s blog – The First Word @ TheMHS

By August 31, 2017 No Comments

A stunning Sydney morning provided the perfect setting for the first day of the 27th TheMHS conference, Embracing Change-through innovation and lived experience.             

The opening keynote was Mike Slade, Professor of Mental Health Recovery and Social Inclusion, School of Health Sciences, university of Nottingham, UK and Chair of the European Network For Mental Health Service Evaluation-ENMESH.

If you look up Mike Slade, you will find a plethora (plus) of work he has done and been involved with, and a very strong focus on recovery and seeking and creating solutions. Take a look at INSPIRE a measure that looks at how a person feels a worker supports their recovery http://www.researchintorecovery.com/files/INSPIRE.pdf Mike is a very accomplished, dedicated, and clever person. I was excited to hear this keynote and see the man in person- I may even have been a bit star struck!

For all his mind boggling work, skills and knowledge Mike is a warm and engaging presenter with, (a personal favourite of mine) a great sense of humour. Balancing humour, warmth and passion with serious and important work, thoughts and messages is not within everyone’s capability and he more than managed that.

Mike covered A LOT in the hour he had, and so much of it resonated strongly with me and the audience around me. I had neckache by the end from nodding so often and so emphatically. He also included concepts and ideas that needed taking away and chewing on. It was a truly robust and stretching keynote

My favourite bits included;

His passionate interests around recovery-focused and outcome-focused mental health services, narratives and lived experience, citizenship and wellbeing

Disruptive innovations.

Two words not often seen together but maybe they should be. Given that ‘A growing research base has produced evidence that the status quo preoccupied with biomedical interventions including psychotropic medications and non-consensual measures is no longer defensible in the context of improving mental health.” (Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health) what we have done and are doing is not cutting it enough

He proposed that ‘Disruptive Innovations’ for mental health and addiction include-

Being based in the (real) community

Being trauma informed

Where lived experience is an asset and valued

We are in this together- it’s a community, societal thing and includes clinical, peer, support, and family workers

Wellbeing not recovery

Human rights and social justice are core business

It was interesting to hear that the ‘old paradigm’ includes that there are no new drugs or other biological treatments that are clearly more effective than they were thirty years ago. The models we use for services and treatment today have been available for as long.

A new paradigm shift of hopeful proportions looms- the involvement, leadership and valuing of people who have experience of mental health and addiction issues and recovery and wellbeing. The natural and available workforce and evidence base around what goes on for people, what helps and what doesn’t. Lived experience should always be a value add for people working in mental health and addiction. This would fundamentally shift the why, how, where, what and the power dynamics of service delivery and treatment options.

An interesting analogy Mike made was about taking valuing lived experience beyond mental health and addiction. Recruiting for justice peers, people who had been involved in criminal activity and in the justice system  as police staff? People who had experienced homelessness as housing workers? People who had experienced workplace bullying as workplace wellbeing staff? It makes sense when you think about it, maybe our paradigm shift in mental health and addiction services will create more rippling across our communities globally?  Favourite quote-  “Fix society not people”

Mike believes the future should include peer led services, a human rights focus, power shifts- money/leadership, different service structures and political consciousness and engagement.

My head nearly fell off with affirmational nods when he talked of recovery and wellbeing. He identified that potentially recovery will be a transitional discourse that will lead to treatment and services that focus on inclusion, resilience and wellbeing. This  is something I highly relate to, recovery seems limiting to me. I love the idea of services that support people to grow, take risks and learn, gain skills, relationships and attributes, focus on having value and getting a life that they choose to live for, no matter what hard and good times it contains.

This was an awesome kick off for TheMHS 2017.