The British Psychological Society (BPS) launched the 'Psychology At Work: Improving Wellbeing and Productivity in the Workplace' report at the All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) - Psychology yesterday. It was chaired by clinical psychologist and MP Lisa Cameron joined by co-authors Dr Ashley Weinberg and Dr. Nancy Doyle.
I joined clinical psychologists Amra Rao, Richard Pemberton and Adrian Neal to listen in to the authors talk. I was there to represent the views specifically of 'dual status' mental health professionals who have their own lived experience of mental ill heath, like myself and the members of the In2gr8mentalhealth forum.
We asked whether the APPG might be able to support the movement to destigmatise, value the knowledge from, and support the lived experience of 'dual status' professionals.The panel were open and receptive, and interested in hearing more.
There is much stigma and silence about the helper becoming the one who needs help in the Care Force services. It can lead to shame, misunderstanding of differences between competence and capacity, important unmet needs in the workforce, and foregoes the knowledge that dual status professionals can bring to developing compassionate services having 'worn both hats'. This stigma seems a blind denial of the truth of the common complexities of our humanity, regardless of role. It allows the 'othering' divide between 'us/professional/always well' and 'them/service user/always ill' to persist entrenched, freezing those who need help into positions of hopelessness. A parity of esteem is needed for all those who seek support.
In the In2gr8mentalhealth forum, we hear tender stories of shame, struggle, identity confusion, work loss fears, recovery, compassion, wisdom and gain from members' 'dual' experience of mental ill health. If they could be heard and understood and valued, just as they are, for the richness and compassion brought to understanding distress, it would be clear how much of a trick has been missed through such silencing. We need to rethink how human, role-flexible and compassionate our services are to all who need them.
We hope the Psychology APPG can keep the 'dual status' discussion on the agenda, and act as a further catalyst in challenging the stigma against mental health professionals with lived experience of mental ill health. It continues to lurk in the shadows.
For more information on the members only forum, visit www.in2gr8mentalhealth.com.