Friday, 13 March 2015

March Newsletter

Dear Friends,

As we are approaching our March meeting, on Monday the 16th at LARC 6.30-8.30pm, we would like to announce a forthcoming event we are planning for Friday the 24th of April 7-9pm, on the theme of the Open Dialogue approach. Certainly there is a lot to talk at our meeting and learn about it. 

We now have received confirmation from Dr Nick Putman to be a guest speaker together with several members of his training team, as they will be happy to give us an introduction of the approach and answer audience questions in regards. 
Full details will follow soon.

An initial Open Dialogue pilot in Britain has just completed the first year of training and this week the first national conference on the subject took place in London reporting on first impressions. Feedback of the event can be read here


The RCP have put out a call for evidence on the status of inpatient psychiatric care in England and alternative options and it is likely this will become an election issue (the Shadow Minister for Health was asking questions in Parliament on Friday about the lack of beds in CAMHS). There is an opportunity here for those with experience of inpatient wards to write in about the urgent need to ensure people can have access to a safe, healing, therapeutic space if they ever need it. It’s a real opportunity for Soteria and Survivor Led Crisis Services to be raised. So, please consider submitting evidence to this (evidence is being submitted between 4 Feb and 18 March). More details


Some of you might remember the proposal to have a friendly and accessible after-hours drop-in centre for people in mental health distress. While the project is still being worked on The Lifehouse was launched this month and it will now meet every Tuesdays 6.00-8.00 in the Three Bees Café at Kingsley Hall, Bow.
The Lifehouse is meant to be meeting a place for anyone suffering mental distress or acting as a carer; an anti-discriminatory open forum that encourages respect and sharing in a non-judgemental environment, where community and inclusion have long been practised. The Lifehouse is a peer group of user led participants, seeking and offering mutual support in a friendly and informal atmosphere. There is no charge to attend and meals and refreshments can be purchased at the reasonably priced cafe; contributions toward the meeting room are welcome. Kingsley Hall, Bow. Underground, Bromley by Bow; DLR, Bow Church; buses, Bow Church and other local stops. For enquiries contact Nick on 07926886372 


In the main time Eastbeat has been running regularly every first Tuesday of the month for over one year now, offering fine musicians and poets performances at our esteemed Kingsley Hall, Bow. This month a wonderful banner was created by David Amery dedicated to Mary Barnes and her fabulous choice of colours, to celebrate the current exhibition of her works at the Nunnery Gallery. A photo attached portraits the wonderful trumpeter Marcello Patruno, while Jazzman John Clarke, the compère in residence, has promised an ever richer bill for the next event on 7th of April 7-9pm, right after Easter. 

There are still another couple of weeks left to visit the energising Mary Barnes show. For those unable to do this due to distance or disabilities, we'd like to thank Andrew Roberts and Dina Ibrahim for the comprehensive review they have put together and shared with us 
Mary Barnes will also be one of the discussion topics at the next Survivors History Group London meeting on Wednesday 25.3.2015 from 1pm to 5pm at Together, 12 Old  Street, London, EC1V 9BE 


A new Channel 4 documentary about Bipolar Disorder, by Psychotherapist Philippa Perry, is available to be watched online for a few more weeks. Limiting to the very different experiences of three diverse patients, the documentary shows among other things the distinct symptoms that people might experience, compressed under a single limiting label. Once again it can be perceived how the necessity to treat and help each individual with delicate consideration is paramount to the beneficial results achieved


Have you seen the SMILEY TEARY BADGE yet? The "ONLY US" campaign is being launched soon in order to sensity people on Mental Health Awareness Week which starts on Monday May 11th. This aims at breaking the stigma that separates the ill from the well. The leaflet attached says:
"There's "them" — and then there's "us". They are mentally ill and dangerous  We are well, happy and safe"
Is this really true? Or is the uncomfortable truth that there's a continuum, a scale along which we all slide back and forth during our lives, sometimes happy, occasionally depressed or very anxious;  mostly well balanced but with moody moments; usually in touch with reality, but at times  detached or even psychotic. When we separate ourselves and imagine humanity divided into  two different groups, we hurt those labelled as sick, ill, even mad. We  allow stigma, prejudice and exclusion to ruin potentially good and  creative lives. But we also hurt ourselves, because we stress ourselves  out with false smiles and the suppression of our own  vulnerabilities. Don't be afraid of your vulnerability, your sensitivity,  your mad side. Be bold, and, if you've ever had your own experience of  some kind of mental health issue, whether or not you were diagnosed....... get yourself the SMILEY TEARY BADGE

There is no them and us THERE'S ONLY US
- Order the badge at — 20 badges for £10 (Just quote 'SMILEY TEARY BADGE' (you don't need to send them the image)
- Give the badges to your friends. Keep one for yourself. Think about the implications.
- Monday May 11th (the start of Mental Health Awareness Week) put on your badge. Wear it all week. Find other badge-wearers. And talk to each other. We all have something in common. They are ONLY US

This Sunday the 15th we are invited to the "FIRST ANNUAL CONTINUITY MAD PRIDE PUNK TEA DANCE - A MATINEE"
at The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, London N1 
The show will launch the new compilation CD CONTINUITY MAD PRIDE featuring live performances by THE CERAMIC HOBS, HYSTERIA WARD and JOWE HEAD  and 13 more bands, and all paying guests will be given a free copy. Advance tickets £6 

Looking forward to see many of you at our monthly meeting on Monday as the discussions promise to be of great interest. Talking stick rule will be enforced and 10p penalties will be applied to those that fail to comply ;)


Open Dialogue Approach

The first national conference on Peer Open Dialogue unfolded with great enthusiasm this week in central London. Attended by a diverse audience of mental health professionals and clients, hosted by Dr Russell Razzaque, together with a large number of contribuitors, trainees and supporters, to share the progress of the first pilot Dr Razzaque (Consultant Psychiatrist, North East London Foundation Trust) started one year ago with the NELFT and three other trusts around the country.

Dr Razzaque appeared to be a kind and gentle man while conducting the conference and when I have had the chance to approach him for a few words during the lunch break. He is probably the ideal consultant a person in distress would like to be seen by, when receiving care.

Some of the mentioned core values of the Open Dialogue (OD) were unconditional warmth, openness and authenticity. It was mentioned the importance of being fully "present", for both patients and professionals, and mindfulness has been quoted several times. Being humane and compassionate seem to be the core of delivering an effective service, working toward constructive communication and connect families and networks around the people in distress to heal together efficiently.

The question here is to see how many consultants are actually prepared to drop their domineering roles and masks, in order to stand at the same ground as their clients. Often the conflict between doctor and patient, considered part of an illness, is not even merely a personality clash, but rather a matter of  traumatised professionals attempting to help traumatised patients, when themselves need to heal and change first.
Relationship skills and the promotion of dialogue seem to be the key points for this healing process to work, rather than the knowledge of prescribing cocktails of often severely damaging drugs. Althought elimination of drugs should always be a discretion of communal decision between patients and doctors and in accordance to individual cases, the reduction of them seems a positively considered option by many OD promoters.

According to some of the speakers at the conference, with the introduction of this approach the Psychiatric system is now sorted. Brilliant, everyone would say. However for some "getting people out of benefits" seemed to be the priority of this approach, while I have not heard about examples of working with people with complex disabilities and severe chronic health conditions that might require constant ongoing support.

"The Open Dialogue approach is both a philosophical/theoretical approach to people experiencing a mental health crisis and their families/networks, and a system of care, developed in Western Lapland, Finland, over the last 25-30 years. Remarkably, Open Dialogue is not an alternative to standard psychiatric services; it is the psychiatric service in Western Lapland."

Lapland is the home of about 3.4% of Finland's population, it extends on about one third of the total national territory and is by far the least densely populated area in the country, according to Wikipedia. Finland also seems to have one of the world's most extensive welfare systems,  that guarantees decent living conditions for all residents, also according to Wikipedia. 
Wondering how the system will adapt in different situations and realities where housing and services for specific needs are the issues affecting the mental health of the entire population, not just some individuals. But we are aware that nothing fixes ALL and we hold the hope that surely this is a gentle way forward much needed for many people using and offering the services.

We are now pleased to announce that both Dr Russell Razzaque and Nick Putman (Consultant Psychotherapist, Open Dialogue UK, Soteria) have accepted our invite: both will give a presentation and answer questions around the Open Dialogue approach, together with a few other members of the UK training team, at our next FEEL event on Friday the 24th of April, 7-9pm, at the historic Kingsley Hall, Bow. More details will follow soon.

In Solidarity