It is the epitomy of growing grass roots peer support, that when you reach out and form compassionate, strong connections, gifts come along!
Gifts today in the form of a dedicated space to do in2gr8mentalhealth work on a Friday thanks to fellow member Christine Toft clearing out and sharing part of her office with me when she heard I didn't have anywhere to work. And yes, the all important whiteboard which will see many iterations of formulating and tasks and activities. Christine is a hero of the non-chocolate variety and clearly required some chocolate ones and flowers. And no, Converse trainers are not compulsory but are clearly preferred we realised.
To top it off on this first day, Christine has made an in2gr8mentalhealth birthday cake for tomorrow to celebrate all of our first birthdays as members!
A year ago, in2gr8mentalhealth launched from an organic, desperate need to connect back with my peers when I had felt cast out due to experiencing mental ill health - god forbid you should as a mental health professional! Where was the professional body to normalize, support, guide and navigate this? Why was it so difficult to say we could own our own vulnerability? Why were the mental health professions quiet or absent and not taking an overt stance through role modelling, being beacons for understanding humanity when surely this starts at 'home'?
In2gr8mentalhealth is a multidisciplinary, members only safe space for professionals with lived experience of psychological distress, current or past. It's an opportunity to connect with fellow lived experience practitioner peers to explore identity and stigma and systems, in the context of a time when silence has been rife, and vulnerability overly conflated with competency issues.
We explore how the professional systems in which we work and train help or hinder, and then make ways to challenge, educate, destigmatise, and help change happen where needed...intrinsically, from the inside.
No more silence, no more shame, no more denial or dismissal, no rhetoric.
I'll be here on Fridays with my whiteboard.
Dr Natalie Kemp