The latest Compassionate Mental Health Conference held in October 2017 at fforest, Cardigan was an inspiring and wholly informative two day event. This initiative was founded by Brigid Bowen whose own personal journey of psychosis and recovery had led to her interest in recovery-focussed approaches to mental health. Hearing Voices Network Wales helped to fund bursary places at the conference and emailed us the details of the conference.
The initial introductions were facilitated by Malcolm Stern, the co-founder of Alternatives. We then separated into smaller break out groups to share why we were there. A complement of professionals, funders and experiencers of mental health challenges could be found in most groups. The common ground we found between us is that as individuals we all experience trauma and challenges with our mental health at some time in our lives.
Over the two days we learned about eCPR with Dr Daniel Fisher, a psychiatrist from the US. eCPR is a process of helping individuals through emotional crisis and through to releasing trauma. It’s a simple and human process of genuine connection from one individual to another.
Beatrice Birch facilitated a healing session where we created the perfect sphere from clay. She talked about Inner Fire, a year-long residential programme that she founded in Vermont, US. Inner Fire helps individuals to recover from mental distress, addictions and to come off medication. There was a tangible joining of energies within our group and the feeling of healing energy being present.
Rufus May and Elisabeth Svanholmer presented their compassionate and non-judgemental approach to voice hearing as well as towards those experiencing a state of psychosis.
Andy Bradley gave us the experience of our feelings being expressed and heard in a group setting. Each of us had equal time to express our feelings and he managed the time frame for us. I felt this had real meaning for those of us who had experienced problems with not being allowed to express feelings as well as not getting needs met in our lives.
Elinor Kapp, a retired child psychiatrist, told her stories to a large group of enraptured listeners in the evening by firelight. Elinor uses story as an agent of healing and recently published a book of her stories.
Last but not least there was the wonderful setting of the conference at fforest. The latter teaches simple, healthy and sustainable living – they sustained us with tasty and healthy food much of it grown on site.
There was even a retired consultant psychiatrist preparing the drinks for breaks and all in all this community of equals without hierarchy was a refreshing change. It seemed the experts were actually those who lived with mental health challenges and had experienced crisis. We found participants from every walk of life at the conference. We informally networked with people interested in creating safe spaces for healing and withdrawing from medication. Many made connections and partnerships for future projects.
Compassionate Mental Health aimed to inform, inspire and empower people living and working with mental health distress and we feel these aims were met. It also brought people together of a common mind to improve the attitudes, beliefs and treatment of mental health towards a more compassionate and recovery based approach. http://compassionatementalhealth.co.uk/about Watch this space! The next conference will be in March / April 2018 – we hope to see you there.
Helena and Chris Parker – Hearing Voices Peer Support Group at Mid Powys Mind at Llandrindod Wells.