A Round Up of Blogs and Media Coverage

This post provides a list of blogs and media coverage about the event. We are keen to ensure that participants have the opportunity to read as many people’s perspectives as they want, but we reiterate that blogs belong to, and represent the views of their authors . Posting a link here does not constitute an endorsement of content by see me.

We have asked permission to include all of these links, and would urge you to do likewise if you want to link them. Some of these blogs may contain content that some people might find distressing or triggering. Where that is the case we have highlighted this with a trigger warning, so that you can choose to read or not.

Blogs about the Event

Donna Barrowman (@WRAP_Scotland)
http://wrap-scotland.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/seeme14-reflections-who-are-we-to-judge.html?spref=tw

Michelle Fisher (@micmacfisheroo)
http://micmacfisheroo.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/is-it-easy-to-be-example.html
http://micmacfisheroo.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/shaping-future-of-tolerance.html
http://micmacfisheroo.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/can-we-claim-to-be-experts-by-experience.html

Chrys Muirhead (@ChrysMuirhead)
http://chrysmuirheadwrites.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/reflections-on-scotlands-re-founding.html
https://storify.com/ChrysMuirhead/my-take-on-seeme14-tweets-from-see-me-re-founding

Mental Political Parent (@mentalpolitical)
http://mentalpoliticalparent.com/2014/04/05/now-you-see-me/

Lyttle Green (@youshouldsee)
Please be aware that that this blog includes self-harm related content that could trigger/distress
http://doyourememberthattime.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/how-to-lose-support-alienate-mentals/

Catherine Eadie (MentalHealth_UK)
http://mentalhealthprofessionalcombatingfibromyalgia.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/seeme14-recovery-involvement-and-what-do-i-know/

Media Coverage About the Event

Daily Record, April 4th 2013
Local councillor Gemma, 23, tells how she conquered depression and why she’s determined to fight stigma attached to self-harming

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/real-life/local-councillor-gemma-tells-how-3363253

Pop-Up Workshop Summary: Debating Recovery and Discrimination

As part of the #seeme14 programme the organisers were keen to create space for delegates with burning issues to invite others to discuss these within the framework of the event. These ‘pop-up’ workshops covered topics such as the impact of welfare reform and on human rights. Eleanor Tate ran a workshop to discuss the concept of recovery, and the implications for this on anti-stigma work. She summarises the workshop here:

I had attended seeme14 without the knowledge it would be possible to facilitate a workshop on a theme of my choosing but when the opportunity presented itself I grabbed it. I was aware the hurriedly chosen title for my workshop “The Damage Done By The Recovery Movement” didn’t exactly fit with the theme of seeme14 or indeed the wider mental health movement in Scotland so I was pleased to find that 11 people had decided to sign-up for it. I was also happy to welcome those extra few who “couldn’t get in anywhere else” on the day, accidental workshop attendance is as valuable as intentional workshop attendance when those there are willing to engage and many did.

Following a discussion with Simon Bradstreet from SRN in the morning, he requested to attend too, given that Simon embodied my nemesis I was more than happy to involve him in the hope he could hear a different perspective to the one he was used to.

There’s been an emerging theme from #seeme14 on “personal journeys” and I suppose this workshop was mine. I haven’t worked in a traditional sense for almost 5 years; among many things, facilitating workshops, discussions and meetings used to be part of my bread and butter, something I did with ease. After almost 5 years of full-time professional mentalism I did question whether I’d be able to do it again but placed my trust in my skills and my “ability” to dissociate. I was ill on the day of the workshop; (no sympathy required, it was an illness borne out of multiple stupidities) which wasn’t helpful but I was keen for it to go ahead. I hadn’t prepared for the workshop at all; by the time day two of seeme14 had begun I was mired in frustration, apathy, a sense of exclusion and anger at what I had seen and heard so far. I went into the workshop feeling hopeless, it was something I’d said I’d do, I’m a woman of my word and though frustrated I was committed to the core aim of seeme14, that aim of “change”.

I struggled to start the workshop, “recovery” appears hard to define, as a recovery naysayer I’m often met with the argument that “recovery is different for everybody” it’s open to interpretation; one man’s recovery is another man’s depths of hell, kind of thing. I think (and hope) we’re past the stage where anybody views recovery from mental illness as “the absence of symptoms and a return to normal functioning” and though it’s clear that this is still the ideal in terms of government policy and society (and indeed invited speakers to seeme14), I think we, the mental health community know this isn’t attainable. Had I been prepared I might have brought along this definition from SRN

“Recovery is being able to live a meaningful and satisfying life, as defined by each person, in the presence or absence of symptoms. It is about having control over and input into your own life. Each individual’s recovery, like his or her experience of the mental health problems or illness, is a unique and deeply personal process.”

Recovery is hard to define, it often attracts a rather fluid definition, the recovery “movement”/dogma is even harder to define, especially when you know you’re one of the few people who aren’t part of it, in a culture of absolute absorption with it.
Over the course of the workshop, as more contributions were made, from many different areas that picture of the recovery movement became clearer. Some in attendance vehemently defended it; argued “why not help people become as well as they can be?”, “why not help people make progress?” WRAP was championed and defended (though reassuringly the recovery star was slated from almost all angles), for some in attendance the topic was initially a challenge but that began to change.

Definitions were paramount at seeme14, one of those definitions was that of “people with lived experience” with which I was aligned, it’s not a definition I chose but it was the only one available that almost fitted. The point I had made the day before and the point I made again was that for some of us, mental illness will never be in the past tense. Some of us are living with mental illness now and will continue to do so in the future, for some of us, mental illness is chronic. The argument of “helping people become as well as they can be” was once again raised, after all recovery does not mean the absence of symptoms, it just means people are able to live their lives, regardless of what their illness may present. It came as a surprise to some present that people living with mental illness may not want this “help” and may in fact perceive it as pressure.

I and many others like me do live our lives, we get up, we go about our business, we go to bed. The way the recovery movement looks, is shaped and impacts on that removes that right, that right to live our lives as they are. Some of us will never live in the absence or even alleviation of symptoms, we just get used to them, our windows of tolerance become so wide that after a while our “alternate realities” become our normal. We know that most of those around us don’t have the same experiences as we do, we know we’re mentally ill but that’s who and what we are, there’s no point fighting it. This doesn’t come from a place of “not trying hard enough” it comes from a place of knowing, acceptance, having insight and experience and having the confidence to make the best of a bad job in the face of a society that wants you to be “better”.

I made the point that for many of us lunch is just lunch, those enmeshed in the recovery dogma may label it “self-care”, a few glasses of wine after a hard day is just a few glasses of wine, the recovery dogma labels this “self-medicating” (and that’s bad!). In our world a bath is just a bath, a trip to the shops is just “Monday”, a haircut is just a haircut. The recovery movement and rhetoric attempts to hijack this, tries to assimilate all our activities, our life, the way we live into some bigger, more ambitious plan.

You could be forgiven for thinking I fear recovery, I don’t. The question of whether recovery equals a loss of support and was that something to fear was raised; I have no support so that’s not the case either. For some in attendance it wasn’t a fear but it was an issue, many felt there were goals, spoken or otherwise that their support was dependent upon, recovery felt like a threat, a bully. If recovery were available to me, and preferably it’d be the “absence of symptoms” one, I’d take it right now, it’s not available to me and many others like me. We could drink milky drinks until they were coming out of our ears, takes baths, take walks, find new hobbies but we’d still be mental.

Every professional and every person who chooses to see us through an “in recovery” lens takes away a little of our freedom. For the many people who don’t consider recovery an option or even “a thing” the language of mental health is discriminatory and stigmatising. Support doesn’t support as it’s coloured by this push, this need “to help people make progress” one attendee described his experiences of “treatment” for his illness which he found so traumatic he’d chosen to live with his illness instead. The truth is, some of us will never make progress, (another word I became patently aware was open to interpretation), and so the argument that “recovery isn’t linear” was raised. Recovery peaks and troughs, that “personal journey” finds a winding path; there are good days and bad days.

It sounds much like living with mental illness to me and living with mental illness is hard, it’s exhausting, the last thing we need is the added burden of pigeon-holing our activities into neat little “goals”, rungs on a ladder or quantifiable gains on a star. People living with mental illness don’t want or need praise for doing what they do because it fits under the recovery umbrella, I do my garden because it needs done and nobody else is going to do it, it’s not “therapeutic” it’s just gardening. If we remove or at least diminish the recovery doctrine we could make living with mental illness, for those of us who have to, a lot easier.

I was keen for the workshop to find some ways in which seeme could change their approach in the future to stop alienating the unrecovered an unrecoverable, by day 2 of seeme14 the recovery colours had been well and truly nailed to seeme’s mast.

“Recovery from mental illness is possible” was stated by many speakers and a commitment to working with the other Scottish orgs to put recovery central to the work done in the future was made.

However it was clear from this workshop, from this diverse group of people that there were other voices and those other voices wanted to be heard. It was suggested that seeme (and other orgs) allow more time and a bigger voice to the “non success stories” this isn’t to say that those who can’t/won’t/don’t recover aren’t successful, more a reflection of how they’ve been viewed and portrayed so far. We need to hear more from people living with mental illness, people living with mental illness need represented by mental health organisations, by their own community.

For many people, care, treatment and support from statutory and voluntary agencies isn’t a means to an end, it’s life. For people living with a mental illness hearing endless accounts of mental illness in the past tense is unhelpful, stigmatising and exclusive. For people living with mental illness the constant expectation that we’re striving for something else, for change, to be better is offensive, unhelpful and disabling. Those whose personal journeys follow a circular path or don’t move at all are as valuable as those who are “better” and our national mental health organisations need to recognise this now and in the future.

Aside

Learning from social reporting at #seeme14

see me Programme Director Judith Robertson reflects on the impact of the social reporting and social media work at last weeks event:

photo

As the dust begins to settle on #seeme14 at Dunblane Hydro, we have begun to analyse and reflect on our social media activity. From my perspective I would like to thank everyone who contributed online and helped build wider engagement with see me.

This event was the first time see me has attempted to reach out to people online and we were keen to see what support and interest there was for online engagement. From the number of tweets, retweets and blogs it’s clear that there is a big appetite for engagement by people involved with the programme and with people not present at the event.

Over the period from 31st March to today, close to 1500 tweets were sent using the #see me14 hashtag. They came from over 200 individuals and organisations, both inside and outside the room. Together these tweets featured over 1.5 million times on the timelines of the followers of people tweeting. What was great to see was that the tweet stream was diverse, with lots of people sharing pictures, links and thoughts/comments.

The tweets reflected a full range of opinions, including some voices of dissent, and some constructive feedback on the things that people liked and disliked. All of these opinions are useful when building a movement to be as inclusive as possible.

We set out to use this blog to share key information with the outside world from the event and to say a bit more than would be possible in tweets. We also wanted to give delegates the chance to write their reflections on the event and their thoughts on the issues. 15 blog posts were written for the event blog, mainly by participants. These blogs have been viewed over 900 times, and a range of comments have been added to the discussion.

We are really keen to read people’s blogs on the event, and hear what it meant to you. If you have a blog you’d like to share with us please get in touch, either by commenting below or emailing/tweeting us a link. Blogs already written that we know about will be shared later in the week with the permission of their authors.

The see me staff team will now be taking forward thoughts and comments from the blogs and tweets, along with the actions from the event. We have a lot to digest, and will be looking across the whole spectrum of tweets, blogs and the huge amount of insight and information we have gathered from people during the rest of the event.

Thank you again for your contributions – we greatly appreciated them.

From now on, please get in touch with us via Twitter on @seemescotland or via info@seemescotand.org

Using knowledge to make the change happen, one story at a time

Robert Mackay reflects on some of the things he took from #seeme14, focusing on the power of personal stories delivered in person for using contact theory to change minds:

“I am recovered” – this personal statement by Gemma Welsh at the seeme . . . . now conference was a moving and authentic sharing of her journey recovery that placed the lived experience at the centre of the much needed change process for seeme Scotland.

For me it was a joy to hear a personal story or narrative to be used, because I have been convinced for many years as to the power of narratives to transform people’s lives. Telling stories of our experiences and sharing with others is such a part of being human – it is how we make sense of our world. “Words are the world” (Michael White).

He meant by that the words we use about our experiences, the words that others use about us shapes how we see ourselves; sometimes the words can be very negative and pessimistic but in recovery terms the words can change to be optimistic and hopeful. So a great place for somebody who has experienced mental health problems to start on the recovery journey is in the company of other people with lived experience and give voice to their experiences using their own words to create meaning and awareness. We heard at the conference about the desire to encourage more people with lived experience to speak publicly and to get involved in social contact work:

“positive stories from people with lived experience delivered face to face”

I researched issues associated with story-sharing in 2008 and found that there are issues and dilemmas associated with this. There is a process of story development through which the person needs to be supported and valued for the incredible gift they are offering. Scottish Recovery Network has on its website guidance on story sharing.

“In small places close to home . . . . unless these rights have meaning there they have little meaning anywhere.”

This is part of the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt we heard and so I ask where are we in terms of human rights having meaning in our places close to home? According to a recent report (Griesbach & Gordon 2013) for the Mental Welfare Commission very few people with lived experience consulted in this study knew what their rights were and recommended there should be a major push about not only better information being made available but also that there is a need for “patient and carer information’.

There surely is a case for not reinventing the wheel but looking to groups and agencies that are embedded in human rights direct action in Scotland. Let’s mention the work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland and particularly the work of the locally based Equality councils that actually does the casework of supporting individuals to advocate for their rights through the appropriate channels and decision making channels. Under the Mental Health Act individuals have a right to independent advocacy and that is why we have independent advocacy projects across the country.

However there is a postcode problem as to the availability of these services – work needs to be undertaken to fill these gaps. Could seeme Scotland and other agencies come up with a plan to firstly identify a gap in the provision of these vital human rights services?

Lets make the links and work in partnership to secure rights as part of the empowerment journey.

What you’re supposed to do

When you don’t like a thing

Is change it. If you can’t

change it, change the way you

you think about it

Maya Angelou 1994

Some Emerging Themes

Overnight, the data analysis team have worked away to analyse the Ketso felts, using software to translate the leaves and branches into themes.

Of course these are far from complete, as the full data set will be analysed later, but the following graphs give some idea of the direction of travel the delegates at #seeme14 felt the programme should consider.

For both graphs, the bars are dividied according to the proportion of Ketso leaves in each area.

GREY – describes the number of leaves describing ways in which stigma and discrimination affects people in that area

GREEN – Signifies the number of leaves proposing ideas for addressing discrimination in that area

ORANGE – Signifies the number of leaves that talk about things people feel are successful for addressing stigma in that area

YELLOW- Signifies the number of leaves showing goals set for addressing discrimination in that field

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Breakdown of major themes identified in first analysis of Ketso felts

Looking at some of the top themes then…

Image

Most ‘popular’ themes from first analysis of Ketso felts

From this we see a range of potential areas for the programme to address. Full analysis will see these developed further, and discussed before adoption.

These results were presented by Simon Bradstreet from SRN and Lisa Cohen from see me. A final straw poll was taken among delegates.

This is what was said:

Imagetheme

All in the name badge…

Liz Wooton found that one simple thing made a huge difference in creating an equal space for people to connect at #seeme14…

It’s a small thing, but one of the biggest items of note for me from the see me event has been the name badges. Because that’s all they are. There is no labelling on us, identifying us as working for a particular organisation or doing a particular job, or identifying us with the (possibly contentious) label of ‘service user’. We are here on an equal footing. There is no status. We are identified by our names only.

I’m struck by this in particular, and I know I’m not the only one, because it speaks to me of how much labelling can hold us back. Not just labelling of ourselves, but seeing the labels on other people, which might intimidate us, or give us preconceived ideas of who they are or what they know or how they might behave towards us. Identification and labelling have been themes that have emerged from this event, and I’d love to see further discussion on how labelling (by self or others) in a wider sense affects people.

The lack of labelling here has allowed people the freedom simply to be people. To share ideas and experiences openly and confidently as human beings, with other human beings.

Lines and distinctions so often get drawn in life. I suppose we often like to put things (or people) in neat boxes. But this event has shown how effective breaking down barriers, blurring the lines, and removing our usual tendency to label can be. Perhaps this small thing can be more important in getting rid of stigma than we give it credit for. It opens the door for treating each person as an individual, another theme I’ve heard over and over for the last couple of days.

Thank you, see me, for starting as you mean to go on.

Liz Wootton is a Small Business Coach with Human Nature. She works with business owners and teams on personal development, with the philosophy firmly directed towards the role of human beings in business development. Her work often delves into self-confidence, self-esteem, stress resilience, productivity, and the ways that personal perception of self and others can affect positivity and behaviour.

Hope Cafe: Addressing Discrimination One Coffee at a Time…

Donna Barrowman is part of a group of activists in Lanarkshire who have set up the Hope Cafe,  a cafe in Lanarkshire that highlights mental health, gives opportunities for people, and does a mean coffee. This blog was originally posted on the Hope Cafe site.

We are halfway through See Me Scotland 2 day conference up here in Dunblane.  Yesterday was an very interesting day.  We heard from many speakers including Michael Matheson Scottish Minister for Public Health.  Michael re-assured us that at Government level there is 100% commitment to tackling stigma and discrimination.  We then heard from both Isabella Goldie and Judith Robertson from See Me Scotland about how the next stage of the See Me campaign hopes to develop in Scotland.  There appears to be a definite commitment to taking work around breaking down stigma and discrimination right to the heart of our communities.  This was very much music to my ears as this is where I believe that the biggest difference can be made.

This is a huge part of what The Hope Cafe hopes to achieve by taking conversations about mental health to a High Street setting.  Each and every one of us within the cafe wears our heart on our sleeve.  We speak very openly about our own experiences if asked because we know that by doing this we start to break down the barriers that are created by stigma.  And by doing so we can inspire hope for people that recovery is possible.

So many times we hear “Really???…….you don’t look like the type of person who would have had a mental health problem”.   My response to this is always “What exactly does someone with a mental health problem look like?”   There is of course no answer to that.

These conversations need to be happening on a daily basis across communities If we want to have any chance of breaking through the barriers of stigma.  Yesterday we heard about how See Me has done alot of fantastic work around changing attitudes – but that the focus now needs to be on changing behaviours.

I left with alot of information yesterday and alot of reflections,  The message I took away yesterday was education, education, education.  And I don’t necessarily mean education in the sense of formal learning.  Whilst I do believe that it’s incredibly important that we start embedding conversations and information about mental health and well-being into the curriculum from a very age – I believe that the education has to be much wider than this.  And I believe that the best tool that we have at our disposal is the lived experience of those who have experienced stigma and discrimination first hand.

Yesterday we heard from Gemma Welsh, See Me media volunteer about her own experiences.  I am pretty sure I was not the only person who had a tear in their eye listening to Gemma’s story.  For me it resonated so close to my own experiences – and I can’t quite believe that there has probably been about 10 years between mine and Gemma’s experiences yet we faced the same stigma and discrimination.  “Your hair is done, you have make up on – so you can’t be depressed”  What a load of crock!!!!!

Gemma spoke about how difficult it was for her to approach her GP, how she had pinned her last glimmer of hope on her GP being able to help her – and how with that one comment her entire hope was wiped away.  This is why I believe that we need to get right down to the grass roots of our communities and start conversations.  We need to share our experiences – good and bad.  We need to challenge stigma and discrimination, and every single one of us needs to take personal responsibility to do so in whatever way we can.  From the top of the hierarchy within NHS, to schools, to workplaces and in communities – we need to start talking and listening.

Very soon we hope to be able to help facilitate some of these conversations in workplaces and schools using our own lived experience to show how stigma and discrimination hurts.  We are already doing it in the heart of our own community in Lanarkshire within The Hope Cafe and believe you me we are already starting to stamp out stigma – one conversation at a time.

I look forward to day 2, and hearing more about how the wonderful campaign that is See Me Scotland plans to move forward.

Meanwhile we will keep plodding away in our little corner of Scotland within Hope Cafe – please do pop in and support us and help us stamp out stigma one cup of tea at a time.

Donna 🙂