Blog: Voices of experience influencing change

3rd July 2018

In this blog Moray Wellbeing Hub (MWH) Champion Ewan reflects on being invited to be part of the Dublin North, North East Recovery College (DNNERC) event ‘If recovery education is the answer, what is the question?

Scotland meets Ireland

Being invited to attend an event in another country and share our approach and learning from MWH, is a huge thing for us as Champions. It gives us a sense that the power of influence is changing in Scotland (and beyond) and that voices of experience are helping to shape opportunities for people in the future.

Not since my birth in Belfast had I been on the island of Ireland so the chance to make a short visit to Dublin was not to be missed. Heidi Tweedie and I had been invited by Frank Reilly, Director of the Scottish Recovery Network (SRN) to participate and present at a one day conference inspired by an event that SRN held at the end of last year in Glasgow.

Attending this event were a wide range of individuals from across Ireland from policy-making roles and those currently experiencing challenges in their mental health, to social workers and recovery facilitators. Participants at the event were encouraged to bear in mind that recovery practice begins and ends with people themselves and were asked to put their roles or ‘hats’ aside and to consider their own perspectives as human beings.

Morning Conversation Café: ‘What do we need for recovery education to flourish in Ireland?’

Of course, I was not at all familiar with the Irish experience of recovery education. It was my role to introduce some of the concepts and practice that we have been modelling in Moray and to learn from those around the table where they were on that journey. From our table discussion, it was felt that Ireland is just at the start of the recovery education journey. It was felt this could be seen as a strength as it allows them to open up to new ideas from across Europe and the world. They seemed to like the Moray approach as well.

The discussion was enthusiastic and showed the commitment and interest all had, but also the very wide diversity of perspectives. Many of the challenges and opportunities sounded familiar to us. Some of the language was different including a wider exploration of the words ‘co-production’ and ‘colonisation’.

Some points that were highlighted:

  • Growing interest in a social movement approach and recovery education being inclusive at all life stages
  • Promotion, publicity and use of language and whether the use of the word of ‘recovery’ was useful
  • A strong interest in sustainability and co-ordination of education courses sitting outside of health care and within the community
  • A need for flexibility and providing choice and options for the individual where they were at, not where others thought they ‘should’ be
  • Using recovery education as a mechanism for hearing and empowering individual voice (self-advocacy)
  • Recovery education being mainstreamed and no longer being the exception

After that came the ‘PechaKucha’ presentations – 20 slides with 20 seconds to talk about each one with no stopping! As always these proved to be both inspiring to see and thought-provoking as well. My favourite was the Belfast Recovery College who had a lot of humour, photos and cartoons as well as poignancy in their presentation. They also made some key points such as the vital importance of reception and administration staff to live the values as being the first contact point for people.

Heidi and I went last, and I think we managed to get through it without making any mistakes! Afterwards, we were both approached by several delegates to thank us for the presentation and how authentic it had been and how respectful of each other we were. I think we just did what any Champions of the Hub would do using our core values, but it was encouraging that it was so well received.

Afternoon Conversation Café. The ‘Answer’

  • Do any of the approaches presented during ‘PechaKucha’ meet the needs identified in the morning Conversation Café?
  • For recovery to flourish in Ireland what do we need to experience in recovery education?

Our table found these questions more difficult to come to any conclusions on and I was aware that there might be some resistance to the recovery approach in certain parts of the health service system in Ireland, but I’m not familiar enough with it to really comment on that. The afternoon discussion was just as lively even though the intensity of the day was leaving some a little tired. Some of the key points from that afternoon were:

  • The importance of learning and merging the thinking
  • Whole system approach had to include policy-makers
  • Social contact approach that MWH spoke about was of interest
  • Recognising communities can be created and exist anywhere
  • “We are in the community but are we of the community”.
  • Discussed needing to identify champions wherever they are and a need for leadership
  • Taking ownership of our own mental health
  • ‘Feeling’ is vital, warmth is given from the venue, the refreshments. That you feel welcomed
  • Assertive engagement, going into homeless hostels, for example, recognising that people need to be reached where they are
  • Recovery comes through the community connections
  • “Mental health in itself is an opportunity to reclaim and rediscover community. There is a crisis in community.”
  • Getting to a stage where MH professionals can be open and honest about their own mental health challenges
  • What is a valid recovery journey and what is ‘good enough’? – keep it from the person’s perspective
  • “There are inherent skills within people themselves, not just the communities they are within. This needs resources and can be achieved by being reciprocal.”

Finally, all of the ‘PechaKucha’ presenters went on stage for a quick Q&A session which allowed for some further questioning on issues raised during the day.

Overall this was a great conference and I learned a lot about recovery education in Ireland. I came away with the impression that, although the movement in Ireland might be younger than Scotland, the direction of travel seemed very familiar and there was a common approach. Further to this, there was much we could learn and share between our two countries.

Ewan (includes Heidi’s reflections and notes).

This blog has been reproduced from the Moray Wellbeing Hub website. Read the whole reflection piece and notes from the presentations by following this link