This will be a symbolic influencer event from the heart of the psychology professional body. Are you a mental health professional, from any discipline, with lived experience of mental health problems? Please do help in re-narrating the stigma that as been attached to this to the widest audience. We will be role modelling together.
I am building the event with Christopher Whitley, consultant clinical psychologist and fellow member of the London Branch of the Division of Clinical Psychology, British Psychological Society. We have had an intial conversation about themes that have arisen from the in2gr8 forum and from questions and discussions that have come up at the workshops and talks I have given.
We are going to invite mental health professionals from Trusts and academia. I'll be sending out the themes for the day to interested LE professional deliverers, I have had some interest already so please get in touch soon on contact@in2gr8mentalhealth.
You need not share your story, only be willing to say you have lived experience as a mental health professional. There will be pay and expenses for those co-delivering. I will be standing in solidarity with you on the day, stigma work takes courage at the moment and we will be prepared for it. In fact, the questions that come up around it just help us nuance more around how to understand strife's gifts. We can help attendees think about how to support anyone's distress in the moment sure (and the gaps that need building in for that) , but importantly, also how many professionals bring flourishing because of past lived experience.
We are moving this event from any conflation with the 'staff wellbeing' agenda, because stigma says that those with lived experience are the most vulnerable in the ranks, but I'm not sure that is the case, and certainly for any professional working in mental health of the system does not provide the correct ingredients to support emotional labour, all are at risk. Did you perhaps ever stop to think that indeed those with lived experience may be the last mental health warriors standing in such embattled times in the NHS? That we bring the strength of having engaged with chaos and undercertainty before, and know how to operate in that and keep going well? That we might be here to offer this strength from adversity intriniscally into a system that needs it?
Those with experience of mental health problems have been paying forward their hope, metabolised understanding of distress, experience of growth and personal meanings of recovery, in the ranks of the mental health scene for many many years. It can be the motivation for wanting to help others, because we've been there, we know the strength and the courage needed and it is nothing less than inspiring. We know that none are immune to the challenges of life and their impacts. We know that there are stories behind the pain that can be reached and helped to expression over time giving a sense of understanding and some balance. We know how important it is to be alongside someone, because we have experienced others being alongside us. And where help hasn't been good enough? We are driven to make it better however we can because we are deeply passionate to alleviate pain.
We don't see the place for shame, we see the tenderness, the courage and the celebration of the little and the big triumphs, and then the turning to help others find the same. We stand together in understanding our common humanity and how supported connection with vulnerable parts of ourselves, the very thing that feels as if it could break you down, can in fact help transform a life.
We will be re-narrating the hell out of stigma, questioning everything. There has been much underestimation, much denial , much silence, much ignorance of post traumatic growth, human endurance and endeavour, much paradox in practice and blindedness to the value of our experience alongside the rigors of our training. Too much free floating fear around fitness to practice issues that needn't be, that also get conflated unhelpfully with past lived experience. My wish is to invite representatives from the HCPC to the event to connect and talk these fears through.
We challenge mental health systems to let go of their fears with us (we know how to do this well we've been there! ) and embrace and learn through genuine enquiry what it is we can find out together and the implications of that for training and practice.
By doing so, we can help those coming up into the professions in the future understand that they don't need to fear systemic stigma adding to any personal psychological pain that might happen, in the way it feels it does at the moment. They will be able to speak with confidence about their experiences, find them supported and understood as to how their experiences can be embraced as valued, enhancing and deepening of practice. This is the wish.
We at In2gr8mentalhealth will power for nothing less than a respected, valued and embraced voice within the profession. We can only profit from understanding this human phenomena more, beyond the prevalent and narrow narrative of 'support', because we have already been here and helping in the field for a very long time.
There will be gold in it.
I am looking forward to connecting around this event tremendously.
Dr Natalie Kemp