S86A: WORKSHOP: Discovering and exploring different ways to understand experiences otherwise referred to as ‘mental illness’.

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By September 27, 2017 No Comments

Authors: Andrew Foster, Prunella Howell-Jay

Year: 2017

Event: 2017 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Lived Experience, Recovery,Reducing Stigma and Discrimination,Lifespan – Children, Youth, Adults, Older People

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers

Abstract: The headspace Youth Early Psychosis Program (hYEPP) has developed and implemented a new service initiative, Discovery College, which is a co-produced, co-facilitated and co-received educational opportunity designed to enable shared learning opportunities about mental health and wellbeing and other relevant topics. The Discovery College works on well-established principles of recovery, which emphasise hope, positive sense of the future, learning from the wisdom of lived experience and ensuring individual choice and control to meet participants personal needs, rather than approaching mental health through a medical paradigm.The hYEPP Discovery College is modelled on international examples of Recovery Colleges, but with a specific youth-focus (hence the shift in name from ‘Recovery’ to ‘Discovery’). In bringing together service users, mental health professionals and friends and family members of service users as students, topics are explored in new and engaging ways, building a greater sense of common humanity and providing a space for people to come to their own conclusions about what works for them.

A recent topic for co-production at Discovery College has been on the topic of exploring other ways of understanding and framing ‘mental illness’* beyond the traditional medical model used in many health services. In exploring the topic and by attending the resulting workshop(s), students (who consist of service users, friends and family members and mental health professionals alike) begin to identify that there are numerous ways of understanding the experiences that have often been referred to as ‘mental illness’ and subsequently, develop a new way of engaging in dialogue and discussion that empowers the service user to be able to cut a new path in their life, with a greater sense of meaning and a heightened sense of agency in their own recovery journey. Such an approach draws on the wisdom of much of the lived experience literature and also some of the key recovery oriented literature which indicates the importance of ‘framing the ‘mental illness’ as a key task in the journey of personal recovery.(1)

In this workshop, participants will be encouraged to explore their own frameworks for understanding their experiences with ‘mental illness’, to understand how others make sense of it and how being open to different views and perspectives can help to build stronger and more meaningful relationships between service users, their friends and families and those in professional roles. In the discussion, mental health professionals begin to explore the idea that instead of their professional expertise being ‘on top’ in terms of its importance and relevance, that instead they can begin to make their expertise available ‘on tap’(2) for access to and by those who wish to access it, when they wish to access it. Service users consider how they can see services as part of a broader array of support networks and connections as part of a self-directed approach to their own well-being.

Session Outline
Introduction- including energiser (10 minutes)
- Illustrate the traditional way of viewing ‘mental illness’ in western culture
- Outline the idea that there are many different ways in which the term ‘mental illness’ can be explored and explained.
- Poem Psychiatric Incantation or Pat Deaghan clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhK-7DkWaKE

Key activity 1) Discussion (10 minutes) Q&A
- Why would we want to explore different ways of understanding ‘mental illness’ in a clinical service?

How can we be open to different perspectives? Discussion and Small Group Activity (30 minutes)
- Identify and articulate a range of different ways for framing ‘mental illness’
- How do we have conversations with people who have different frameworks than us?
- How do we create the space for such an exploration of views?

Reflections/Summary (10 minutes)
- Summarise some of the strong views and ideas from the participants
- Illustrate the value in seeing ‘mental illness’ in many different frameworks as part of a ‘web of human experience’
- Encourage participants to consider how this can inform the quality of the relationships they have around the topic of mental health

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: Audience members for this workshop will come away with a sense that there are numerous ways of understanding the experiences traditionally labelled ‘mental illness’ and how in being able to explore new ways of thinking and speaking of the experiences, that new ways of living with it, recovering from it and supporting people with it, can occur.

Learning Objective 2: This topic is particularly relevant to contemporary mental health services wishing to implement recovery-oriented programs and to implement changes to their service that are person centred, capacity focused and open to the idea of a continuum or web of human experience.

Slade, M (2009). ‘Personal Recovery and Mental Illness’ A Guide for Mental Health Professionals Cambridge University Press,
Perkins, R., Repper, J. Rinaldi, M and H. Brown (2012). ‘1. Recovery Colleges’ IMROC Briefing. . London: Sainsbury Centre for mental Health. http://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/recovery-colleges-paper

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