Psychiatrists, the epitome of the us and them culture within mental health services. The people that govern our treatment, give us the freedom and ultimately have final say over our lives whilst a part of the service we find ourselves in and I know personally I hate it. I resent the power they have over me, and I hate the way, however approachable they may seem, I still fear that at the end of the day they have more say over my treatment than I do, or so it feels.
On Friday 18th May, the VIK project were invited to run a workshop for the Trainee Child and Adolescent National Conference, an event that I don’t think anyone wanted to turn down, not least because this was our chance to have our voices heard to potentially some of the most influential people in the world of mental health. Throughout our planning, the three of us involved, all agreed that the most important message we wanted to convey was the reality of living in our shoes, put them in our place and get them to reverse their thinking to that of a patient and not a psychiatrist. In the hour workshop session we planned four key parts; opening with the refugee camp activity, an exercise designed to simulate the experience of admission, followed by a case study discussion, with a talk about participation and then question and answers concluding. All four parts were designed to get the participants thinking in a new and potentially challenging way, and every part did that; however, I think it’s fair to say the best and most insightful part of the whole workshop was on the feedback from the case study exercise.
Using real life case studies on admission and transitions we asked for everyone to think about and discuss one out of two sets of questions: either looking from the perspective of the patient or, their more natural role, the clinician. The questions were designed to focus on what we felt were crucial factors and considerations that were pivotal when influencing our own care and experience.
|From a clinician’s point of view:
person wants you to do?
person needs you to do?
From the young person’s point of view:
3. What do you need?
In turn we then asked each group to feedback, and this part is what made my day worthwhile and gave me hope as to what the new generation to psychiatrists could potentially be like. You can never explain the feeling when someone gets you, the feeling that actually people do understand what you’re feeling and what you want, and I guess this feeling was replicated in the answers we received. The vague comment “well, actually they were quite insightful” really did sum up what I think we were all feeling, and that whilst no one can ever really “get” you, the responses came close to what ideally we would have loved to hear.
The experience of presenting at a conference, especially to a group of professionals that want to partake, want to learn and actually seem to want to listen and hear me, is one I will never tire of and one that actually seems quite hard to find. The silence that falls as we stand and present the reality of our day to day living, the looks exchanged as we reveal the stories that are so real to us but yet so hard to believe and perceive, and the sense of achievement coupled with relief that we have done it, that maybe we will give at least one person in the room an insight that will stay with them throughout their practice, is for me the best part of the VIK project.
Yes, it would have been good to have a few more delegates and yes, perhaps it would have been nice to have a longer time period, but really I still think that we shared an incredibly powerful message and one that could and did hold its own in a conference full of professional bureaucracy.