Some photography credited to Vicky McNally and Cygnet Healthcare, with all editing done by me via Moldiv
I never thought I'd say that I was excited for a conference-style event... But the New Approaches conference was being held in the same venue as a previous one, and it meant that I was staying in the same hotel; and I found all of that quite comforting. I was also looking forward to some of the talks after receiving the agenda; and the thought of meeting new people is always exciting!
In the introduction and welcoming from the Joint Chairs; we heard from Dr Rob Kehoe, a Psychiatrist and the Medical Director of the West Yorkshire Cygnet Hospitals. Dr Kehoe briefly described some of the talks coming up later today as being about physical health, nutrition, and patient co-production but expressed his view that mental health should be no different from physical, when we all only have one body. Dr Kehoe was also curious to know how varied the event attendees were and asked for a show of hands for each profession he listed. There were hands raised for 'Consultants' and 'Nurses;' but on mentioning 'Occupational Therapists,' there was a huge cheer from a few of the tables towards the back corner of the room!
Honestly, I was surprised to hear that the other Chair; Michael Humes, had once been a Service User because he now has an impressive list of job titles; including being a Patient Reviewer; with both the Quality Network for Forensic Mental Health Services and the Advisory Board at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Ironically, he said he felt like an Air Hostess whilst giving directions to the fire exits during the general housekeeping part of his welcoming speech.
As is typical with events, not everything went to plan and the agenda has a last minute tweeking so that our first speaker was Louise Jefferies, Occupational Therapist with medium and low secure wards within the Men's Mental Health Pathway. Louise talked about the Vona Du Toit Model of Creativity Ability (VdTMoCA) and how it is essential for professionals to engage early and frequently with Service Users. She walked us through the nine Levels of Creative Ability and how to provide a numerical value to the levels via the Activity Participation Outcome Measure (APOM).
During Louise's talk, when talking about a psychotic patient; she used the phrasing that she "...didn't know what to do with him." Straight away I picked up on it and in the Q&A after her piece, I squashed the fear of making the atmosphere awkward and summoned up the courage to question her about it; asking her if she'd reconsider using that phrase. She told me that she wouldn't have a problem saying it to the Service User's face and was sure that she had actually told him 'when I first met you I didn't know what to do with you!' I told her that from a Service User viewpoint, if it had been said to me; I'd have felt like an inconvenience and would have found it detrimental and patronising.
Note: In the break Louise Jeffries explained that the phrasing was purely in exasperation.
The second talk was by Dr. Julie Repper, Recovery Lead for Nottingham Healthcare Trust and Joint Editor of the Journal of Mental Health and Social Inclusion. It was Julie's role as Director for ImROC (Impementing Recovery through Organisational Change) that had brought her to the event today to discuss strategies for using ImROC alongside patient co-production. Dr. Repper spoke about how it only required very simple features for an organisation to enable recovery; and how little time (3 afternoons per year) a member of staff would have to give up to co-facilitate a course at a Recovery College. Julie believes that in using co-production and recognising what a difference lived experience - and in particular Experts By Experience - can make; there's been a shift in the power balance. There was also a special little shout-out to the 'No Force First' policy within Mersey Care and recognition that it is 'leading the way.'
The first presentation of the afternoon was by Deborah Colson, a Nutritional Therapist specialising in nutritional therapy for disorders of the nervous system; and here to talk about evidence supporting nutritional influences on mental health. Deborah explained how Omega 3, Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin D can help someone with Depression and so nutrition plans should be personalised to each individual; taking into account any genetic predispositions, lifestyle preferences, and psychosocial factors.
My three favourite parts of this talk were
1. that she said 'sugar is the crack cocaine of carbs'
2. that 'Magnesium is nature's tranquiliser'
And 3. that Vicky McNally and I were eating Haribo Bears when Deborah began talking about how you should 'eat a rainbow!' i.e. eat foods of different colours)
I was able to enjoy sunny London during the lunch break when Vicky (McNally), Matt O'Brien and I, went out to the rooftop seating area to eat our food. However, the best part was when we went back in and saw that desert was sugar covered doughnuts with optional (not sure who'd opt not to have it!) melted chocolate!
Next, we heard from the Doctor who had originally been planned to speak at 10am; Dr Fiona Gaughran, Lead Consultant Psychiatrist with the National Psychosis Service and Director of Research and Development for the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Dr Gaughran spoke about the physical health of people with Psychosis; as they are less likely to get access to care, have a lower life expectancy, and a decreased pain threshold; giving tips for metabolic risk management.
We then heard from two staff representing Cygnet Lodge Woking; Joyce Segbefia, Clinical Adults Services Manager, and Dr Jennifer Bamford, Forensic Psychologist. They spoke about Woking's approach to Locked Rehabilitation and talked of how rather than only focusing on safety and basic needs, discharge should also actually focus on the individual and look at what really motivates them.
Note: Dr Bamford's part of this talk was filmed live on Twitter.
The final talk of the day was set to be for selected Service Users to share their perspectives of rehabilitation.
During one Service User's part, there was talk of an upsetting psychotic episode, the details of which took me my surprise and led to me quietly excusing myself and retching in the stairwell! It's hard to explain my upset whilst maintaining the person's privacy but it'd been so surprising and... things. That - I'm ashamed to say - I lost all emphasis on how mentally unwell this person had been in doing what they had, and passed judgment without factoring that in. It's difficult to admit that because I'm probably seen as the person who tells others not to do that; but everyone can make a mistake in the heat of the moment.
Co-Chair Michael Humes also shared his personal story and talked about how he hoped that in telling others it he could help reduce the stigma of mental health, and to give others hope when they'd see that recovery is possible.
To see the vlog of the event; CLICK HERE
To see the vlog of the event; CLICK HERE