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An interview with our new Network Manager!

As he settles into his role, we find out a little bit more about Mark Soanes, our newest team member.

You started a few weeks ago, how has it been so far?

The opening few weeks have been really interesting and enjoyable. It has been good getting to know the team. They are all really passionate and bring huge experience within their roles. They do seem like a nice bunch as well which helps!

I imagine it has been busy?

There has been lots of information to digest. This is due to the variety of projects that Scottish Recovery Network are involved in. Meeting people at events and sessions has been inspiring and emphasised why we are doing what we do. I do not underestimate the value of people sharing these incredibly personal stories and experiences. I believe that we have a huge responsibility to learn from them. To make the learning count towards improving things for everyone.

What are you looking forward to most in your new role?

Being involved in developing and improving approaches across Scotland’s mental health system. From what I have seen so far there really is an appetite to listen, learn and better integrate support. Sometimes, when systems are embedded over a number of years, it can be difficult to instigate change. The starting point must be an openness to change, which, largely speaking appears to be there.

And it’s change in a post-pandemic world

Coming out of the pandemic the challenges being faced across our mental health system are far bigger than before. It is going to need a collaborative approach involving statutory and voluntary services. Most importantly, an approach that values the insight of people who have lived experience of mental health challenges. I truly believe that with that joined up approach and wider focus, services and support can improve.

What do you see as the biggest challenges over the next few years?

The size of the challenge for us and other organisations is massive. With more people needing access to support, post pandemic, demand is currently outstripping supply. There is the added pressure caused by lockdown, the cost of living crisis and the huge pressure on NHS services. Many are struggling to cope.

What might some of the solutions be?

The work delivered by the voluntary sector and small community led groups becomes even more vital. This support can work alongside clinical interventions, inevitably taking pressure off the NHS. If integration can happen this should result in a reduction in waiting times, with more emphasis on ‘Early Intervention’ approaches. Scottish Recovery Network will play a big role in bringing these parties together.

What does recovery mean to you?

For me mental health recovery is about thriving, and not just surviving. Being able to see a future. Not dominated or defined by mental health, but being able to accept it is part of that future. Just as it is for everybody.  

It is also about having your own ‘toolkit’ that you can use as you see fit. This could include having a support network around you, that you have confidence in. Or having activities and strategies that allow you to feel calm, well or optimistic. This toolkit will be organic. It will develop as you go along, with some things added and some things taken out as you need them.

What might our readers be surprised to know about you?

I love food, both eating and making it. So much so, when I was younger it was my dream to open and run my own restaurant. I did not quite make that happen but I did however own a sandwich shop and catering business in Nottingham for a couple of years called ‘The Crusty Cob’! Although I really enjoyed this time, I much prefer preparing food on a much smaller scale for family and friends. I have replaced my desire from owning a great restaurant to eating in them!

Finally, what are your top tips for being the ‘newbie’ in an organisation?

Get involved in as much as possible as early as possible. This is the best way of learning and understanding the ethos of an organisation and the people within it. Spending time with the team and getting to know them and their work is important. Being new I am in a fortunate position, I can get away with ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’. I have used this well and will continue whilst I am still a ‘newbie’! Sometimes a new person coming into an organisation can see things with a fresh set of eyes. I hope this will be beneficial.

It has been an exciting few weeks and I have already attended a number of events, meetings with partner organisations and a Parliamentary Reception as part of Scotland’s Mental Health Partnership! There are some great projects, resources and opportunities coming up. I look forward to meeting more people and organisations across the country and working together to make mental health recovery in Scotland real.

If you want to speak to Mark about future collaborations contact 07922 778297 or mark.soanes@scottishrecovery.net

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