Finding a voice

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A series of upcoming presentations found me feeling somewhat apprehensive, they’re not my ‘thing’. If the topic I have to discuss is something I’m not enthusiastic about, I also find presenting it nerve racking. I strongly dislike feigning enthusiasm for something my ‘heart’ isn’t in, If I’m obliged to do it, I suffer physically with anything from headaches, to an upset stomach.

With the hope of learning a few tips on how to ‘act as if’, the topic was the ‘best thing since sliced bread’ I signed up for a voice workshop.

I didn’t have the expectation that one or two lessons could help me completely overcome my reticence, or that I’d become an actress overnight. The class teacher however was an actress and an experienced voice coach, who gave me just the right amount of complimentary and encouraging feedback. She thought my existing use of voice and body was effective for the task.

.’Have you ever done ballet? she asked, as I performed a particular arm movement, part of the warm up routine for the workshop. It possibly being 50 years since I’d done a demi-seconde or an en avant, and now being more of a sugar plump, than sugar plum fairy! ……..I thought she was just trying to be kind, she told me however, that many people, including herself, found the arm positioning didn’t come naturally. I can’t say her compliment had me thinking……. ‘I’ve possibly a latter day career as a ballerina in the offing’, but the amusing thought did cheer me up.

Whereas I care less these days as to what people might think about my appearance, it is still a morale boost if someone pays a sincere compliment.

Having done the preliminary warm-up stretches, the teacher wanted me read some set pieces aloud. As an aid to finding good breath control while reading, she first asked me to do what she described as breathing ‘movements’. I found the idea of breath work being movements, preferable to some breathing exercises I’ve previously experienced at similar workshops, where having been directed to breath ‘properly’, I’ve held my breath a bit longer than advisable!

One of the readings was a poem, and though the location of the workshops was in a leafy laned, backwater of LS6, the poem transported me via sea-going vessels to more exotic climes, and to returning home again through the choppy waters of the English Channel.

Here it is,,,,,,

Cargoes‘ by John Masefield

 

 

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The politics of Mental Health – Should people who use services commission them?

I recently attended an event at York University; run by the Social Research Council.  I went as a Blogger and as someone with an interest in Mental Health policy.  This interest has been borne out of my personal experience of using Mental Health services and wishing that this experience had been different and seeing the flaws in the system.

The event was concerned with  ‘Co-production and commissioning services.’

Co-production is the fancy term for involving people ( who have used or use services ) in producing mental health services. People may be involved in delivering or designing services.   This event was concerned with true Co-production which means involvement from the start which includes the commissioning of services.  

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Traditionally it has been Health Care Professionals who produce, deliver and shape these services.  Commissioners currently decide which services are needed and where the money should be spent.  But should people who use services also commission them?

There is currently a move towards people with lived experience becoming more involved in delivering services. Employing people with lived experience is logical as there is huge value in this lived experience at the same time it helps to dismantle the ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ culture.  However cynics see Co-production as being a response to austerity and say that it is a way of making people responsible for their own health as though it is a personal achievement.   Organisations often involve people who have used services but this is often as unpaid volunteers and then what happens to people in the long run?

We discussed the imbalance of power between professionals and people who use services.  People agreed that more authentic relationships need to be developed and that  “Professionals need to take off the protective mask and engage. ”  For a service to be more effective it needs to be human.

Pamela Fisher of Leeds Beckett University saw Mental Health Services as political areas which cannot be left to professionals alone.   So therefore does it makes sense that people be involved in commissioning?

Anne Rogers (University of Southampton)  criticised the NHS for largely commissioning and creating a culture which depicts mental ill-health as a biomedical diagnosis which is to be treated with either medication or  IAPT services or both. She talked about the importance of a person having diverse support networks and having ‘Weak tie relationships’  which may include a regular ‘hello’ to a  fellow dog walker in the park.   She explained that weak ties are particularly important as too invasive support such as an overbearing family could actually block people off from getting involved in other things. Diversity of support is important.

Commissioners do get things wrong.   A table of people from Liverpool informed the room how their local Library was closed in order to be turned into a recovery college.  A recovery college may sound great, but people actually wanted their local library. This resulted in a recovery service wasn’t used very much and no library. They wanted to know who decided this?  Co-production can open these decisions up to scrutiny.

Currently if people who use services are involved in commissioning,  it is often towards the end of the commissioning cycle when a lot of the decisions have already been made.  We discussed how true Co-production needs to take place at the beginning of the commissioning cycle.  When the public work alongside commissioners,  questions are framed differently,  and a different agenda emerges.

The event was one of a series of events by the social research council on Co-production.  In attendance were a  mixture of academics, people who work in the health services and people who have used services.   They have their own blog which you can view here if you’d like more information or to be involved.

Please feel free to comment on our blog or on our Facebook page or Twitter!

Thanks for reading.

Nodding acquaintances

On the value of having nodding acquaintances.

If you’ve lived in a neighbourhood any length of time it’s likely you will be on nodding acquaintance terms with many people. This type of recognition can be an aid to your wellbeing as it places you in a context, of the time and spaces you inhabit…..you belong!

In an age where many report feeling they don’t belong, that they are isolated or lonely, nodding acquaintances can be a reassuring acknowledgement that you are not alone…..we are known.

If over time you’ve been on nodding acquaintance with someone, you might have progressed to stopping and ‘passing the time of day’ with the them. You might chat about what’s trending in local, national or International news. These kind of conversations are valuable, even if the chit-chat remains only that, about …….’the price of fish’ or the weather.

Often when I’m about my daily chores in LS13, I see an elderly lady standing inside her house and looking through the window, as yet we only wave, but it’s a connection, I hope we get to talk some time.

Other people who see me sit awhile to catch my breath when carrying shopping, or simply if I’ve stopped to enjoy good weather, or just ‘people watch’…. may smile…..

‘Hills….you can’t avoid hills in Bramley love, can you?’……

It is said that Leeds is one of the friendliest cities in UK and certainly its rare if I stand at a bus stop not to start up a conversation with someone.

On days when the news is particularly alarming, as it was yesterday with the US election results, you might like myself only  have accessed it via the media, and without the opportunity to discuss it with anyone, the potential to feel disoriented, destabalised is real. You may doubt your own perception, or indeed the sanity of the ‘crowd’ who brought about that result. You might as a result phone a friend and commiserate along with them about ways to avert feeling hopeless. Just how can you as individual combat that?

On hearing the news, and feeling downcast I ventured out to the local greasy spoon cafe in a somewhat defensive mood. The conversation in there is often similar to the tabloids that are scattered on its tables, it is frequently sexist and racist…….usually because of that I don’t linger.

‘If someone praises that man’s success’, I was thinking ‘I’ll challenge them’.

The cafe was empty except for the staff who also seemed as dismayed at the result as myself. Fortunately other more pleasant topics were discussed and a simple personal compliment from one member of staff, cheered me on my way, my equilibrium was restored. By the end of the day I did need a ‘top up’ by discussing the days news with a friend but I still valued the earlier time of day passed.

Lily P.