Opportunities for Change and Development in Wales: Speech by Hywel Davies

This speech was given by Hywel Davies, Chairman of Hearing Voices Network Cymru on Thursday, 30th October to introduce the workshop on Opportunities for Change and Development in Wales at the “One Year On Recovery into Practice: A Whole Life Whole Systems Approach Conference”, Botanic Gardens, Carmarthen, Wales, 30th – 31st October 2014

“It is an honour to welcome you to this workshop.

Mae hi’n fraint imi croesawu chi i’r sesiwn “Cyfleuoedd am Newid a Datblygiad yng Nghymru”.

The title of this workshop is “Opportunities for Change and Development in Wales”.

Mae Cymru yn wlad fach, creadigol a phwysig.

Wales is a small, creative and important country and in the past 25 years there has been a significant change in the field of mental health in our country. This change has aimed to humanize and sensitize mental health service provision. I give my thanks to the leadership provided by the mental health voluntary sector and to the vision and courage of mental health service users, family members, mental health practitioners and political decision-makers in Wales and elsewhere.

By the year 2020, according to the World Health Organisation, more people in the western world will have mental health problems than physical ailments. However, the WHO constitution also states that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” An important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.

In recent times we have seen the publication of The Mental Health Measure for Wales and The Strategy Document that provide a stimulus to implement a recovery and a local community based approach to planning and delivering services. Consequently, Hywel Dda University Health Board and the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board have seized this opportunity by entering into a partnership with the International Mental Health Collaborating Network and West Wales Action for Mental Health. The aim of this partnership is to change the thinking, practice and organisation of mental health care so that we work alongside local communities within a Whole Life Whole Person recovery approach.

I have worked for the last twenty seven years in Wales to bring about a change in the way people with diagnosed mental health problems are viewed by society. Not as bio-chemical problems to be treated and cured but as citizens with full human rights who have lived experience of distress and trauma. In my view there is always meaning in “madness” and there is no “Us and Them”. There is just us.

I am a voice hearer and in the past I have been a mental health service user but that does not necessarily mean that I should be seen as being severely mentally “ill”. However, because of my experiences I was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder in 1983 and I used mental services for twenty eight years.

I still hear voices and see visions.

Today, I no longer regard them as symptoms of an illness but as part of who I am. I accept my voices. I am not alone. People have been hearing voices since the dawn of humanity and many notable and ordinary people now and in the past have heard voices and seen visions and are well as defined by the World Health Organisation.

My experience of mental health care was mostly positive. However no one helped me with my voices. What did help was finding ways to cope with my voices and visions in an empowering and emancipatory manner. An approach developed by the hearing voices movement that acknowledged and respected my beliefs and explanation and sought to find meaning in my experiences rather than eradicating them with medication.

One person putting his or her head above the parapet enables others to write or to speak and thereby become emancipated as has been the case for me.
In conclusion Wales is a signifant and courageous nation. This is the case in the field of mental health. The Welsh Assembly in Cardiff is a pioneer and by making the Mental Health Measure a statutory requirement,it is leading the world.

This is a great time of opportunity for creating changes that are founded on needs and harnesses the capacities of the communities of South and West Wales. We have the means and the vision to create a Whole life Whole Person and Whole Community Approach for mental health.

I believe that the time is right.

I would like to introduce Phil Chick, Mental Health Lead, Public Health Wales from the Welsh Government.

Hywel Davies
Chairman, Hearing Voices Network Cymru

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