I attended an event a couple of weeks ago about suicide awareness. It was hosted by a local charity called ‘Our Minds Matter’. The speakers and guests comprised staff from statutory mental health services, MPs, Local Councillors, Researchers and other charitable organisations. I was present, representing the Community Interest Company I run ( Adept Living Foundation ).
The thing that struck me, after many years’ involvement with Mental Health services, was the overriding themes and solutions that were posed, were very simple and were reiterated by every speaker, whether they were an MP, local councillor, charity, or user of services.
In no order of preference, the three main themes were as follows:
· That prevention of all mental and emotional ill health, including suicide, is of paramount importance.
· That it is a community effort and responsibility, to ensure the wellbeing of all of its members
· And that the experience of those whom have lived through, and survived, the challenges posed by mental and emotional distress is vital to the successful treatment of mental and emotional ill health
We were all asked to make a pledge, following the event, as to how our organisations will contribute to the effort. As a result, I have reflected on the above three points during the subsequent weeks and I will break them down in the piece which follows.
I have considered what we, at Positive Ways, are currently doing which promotes the three themes. I was heartened when I realised that what we teach in our Emotional Resilience in Action (New ERA model) programmes, incorporates the elements of all of these three themes already and we have written a number of articles on the model Positive Ways articles . Here’s how we are fulfilling the pledge.
To prevent ourselves from falling fowl of Mental and Emotional ill health, we first of all have to be aware that anybody at all, from any walk of life can succumb to it, if we do not take adequate care of ourselves. The Human Givens approach teaches us that we have a number of emotional needs that need to be met and that an unmet need will cause us to experience varying degrees of emotional distress.
In our work, we recognise that resilience, which is the ability to ‘bounce back’ from life’s challenges, is so important as it equips us to deal with and move on from challenges quickly, whilst still remaining fit to undertake our roles and responsibilities. In other words, we are able to ‘brush ourselves off’ and stand on our feet, having the ability to calmly assess the situation and find solutions. This does not mean that life challenges do not happen to us, it just means that they do not affect us as deeply, or impact our ability to cope, for as long as they would, had we not learned tools and strategies which keep us emotionally healthy.
In our work, we teach people to identify unmet needs and give them tools which can be used to get calm and create the appropriate solutions for the challenge. We also show them how to activate and deploy their innate, biological resources which enable them to do this more easily.
The idea of building community is very dear to us at Positive Ways and we always ensure that we are providing the means for people to gather together in the community in different ways ( see Community Hub ) The reason that community is so important is because it provides us with the means to get a number of our Emotional Needs met. These are: the need for emotional connection; the need for connection with the wider community; the need for attention (giving and receiving). To some extent, the needs for a sense of meaning and purpose and a sense of achievement can be met when people feel that they have a role within the community.
One of the reasons the need for connection with the community is so important is because our sanity literally depends upon it. It is within the group that we are able to gauge what is appropriate thinking and behaviour and it gives us perspective on our own lives and challenges. We can also gain emotional connection from the individuals within the group as it is very important that we have at least one person in our lives who accepts us exactly the way that we are and will listen to us.
So, within our work, we actively teach people about these needs and it encourages them to think of some of the ways in which they can get them met.
Lived Experience or Peer Support
It was very encouraging to see how the local mental health services have embraced the concept of Peer Support as a vital component of service provision. It seems obvious to me, that those whom have worked through their challenges in life should be employed to inspire and show others how to do the same.
Peer Support is essentially the basis of the 12 step approach to recovery from addiction and other related emotional challenges. The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, along with the other 12 step fellowships such as Gamblers Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous to name only a small minority, is run solely by those who have recovered from Alcoholism. They have developed a manner of living which enables them to face life without the need for an addictive crutch. It is one of the most successful addiction programmes of all time and has saved literally millions of lives.
Whilst it is important to also have the benefit of support and guidance from those with professional skills and qualifications, I would argue that some of these interventions are sometimes ineffective if they cannot be corroborated by experience. At Positive Ways, in addition to our training in the fields of counselling, coaching and psychology, we are also willing to share our personal experiences of the challenges faced by some of our clients.
I was trained in mental health services many years ago as a Peer Worker, this means I am qualified to share my experiences of mental and emotional ill health and addiction in a way that is appropriate and helpful to those with whom I work. It is safe to say that, at Positive Ways, the tools, techniques and methods we teach have been tried and tested over many years of practical experience of both recovering from and maintaining mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as addiction.
It seems that the three themes are a current common thread throughout mental health care provision, as Theresa May commented on them as part of her pledge to improve mental health services back in May 2017. I see them as a return to a set of principles and values which underpin a more connected, cohesive, and caring society. These underlying principles are at the heart of the method we have devised in ERA and are also central to the Human Givens approach.
Whatever you wish to achieve in life, you will be hard pushed to so if you do not have emotional and mental health. We will all expect to face bereavement, illness, stress and relationship challenges at some point throughout our lives. Wouldn’t it be good if we were as prepared and ready to deal with these challenges as possible, before the effects of them are able disrupt our lives? Wouldn’t it be good if we knew the tools to pass on to our children and prevent them from developing these challenges, which are much more difficult to manage once they have taken hold?
If you wish to find out more about our work, please visit : www.positiveways.co.uk
Our next programme is being held on the 7th and 8th of October 2017 in Dunstable. For more information, please visit The New ERA method: Building Resilience through the Human Givens
Other events can be found by visiting the website. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07791 520388 if you would like to have a chat.