NHS Staff Wellbeing Policies Miss The Opportunity To Support The Valuing of Lived Experience In Ment
When it comes to the painful repression of lived experience of mental health problems in the mental health profession, staff wellbeing policies and actions will only go so far.
They don't address the valuing of that lived experience as a personal tool that can enhance each individual's practice. They don't say that once you have moved through this, you can become better in your work because you can know yourself more deeply. Our work is with with the psyche of others, and therefore our own. The deeper you know yourself, the deeper you can discriminate and know the other for themselves. This is one of the bases of reflective practice, core to our work in mental health. It is true for all practitioners, not just those who may have lived experience of mental health problems.
I don't hear much of this positive, hopeful, growth attitude being taken by organisations when someone is in difficulty and requests leave, nor on their return from it.
When staff wellbeing policies are only wrapped up in a support stance, though important, they miss the opportunity to set lived experience of mental health problems in an arc of natural potential to experience transformation and re-order from chaos, the potential for flourishing from having faced what precipitated that chaos. There is personal processing work to be done here and that's bravery in action, it's during this time of moving to approach support, that services need to be most aware of the responsibility of the power they hold in the messages they give out. Services must think about this with those who approach them for help, which includes their own staff.
This place of grappling with chaos is where our core strength rises from. This, when harnessed in the service of helping others, becomes an authentically powered passionate drive to help others find their path to healing; its sure knowledge that different ways to different kinds of personal peace can be found.
Could lived experience of mental health problems in the mental health professions ever truly and overtly be seen as complimentary to someone's years of practice or training? There's certainly no deeper learning.
And as for the repression, when wellbeing policies are implemented, it is the right thing to do to be ready to hear about the pain and the anger of not having been heard properly before. There can be no transformation without the processing of this pain within and by the system itself. We mirror in our systems the same processes that need to operate in us intrapsychically when it comes to helping change happen. So, systems must be ready to listen. If we can get this right within, we can be better providers.
Dr Natalie Kemp