Friday, 7 February 2014

Unconventional Wisdom: Shaping Services Together Conference, Powys, September 2013 - Adding To The Debate?

2013 Conference Theme: Shaping Mental Health Services Participation

In September 2013, Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations  (PAVO) were involved in running a conference in Powys, one of three events across Wales (you can access all three conference reports here).  The event was funded by Public Health Wales and supported by Welsh Government.  The theme was mental health participation.

PAVO lead on the Powys Stronger in Partnership Participation Network and we are a member of Mental Health Action Wales.  You can find out more about the activities we are involved in and the difference we think we are making here.

You can read a full report (12 pages) from the 2013 Shaping Services Together Conference, Powys, on our website here.  In this blog though I wanted to explain a bit about the ideas underpinning the conference planning in 2013.  I also want to tell you about another free conference that you are invited to on Friday 7th March 2014.

Learning From Previous Conferences ...

We first ran an event of this kind (i.e. national participation) in 2012, you can watch a video from this event here and read the conference report here.   Eleanor Longden spoke at this event and her talk continued the debate in Powys that challenges the conventional wisdom underpinning our mental health system.  A wisdom that is founded on the idea of "mental illness". You can read more about this debate in my previous blogs here and you can watch Eleanor talk on in this link.  

Eleanor Longden is joining us again on 7th March 2014, you can find out more about this here.
Thanks to people's willingness to get involved in the 2012 conference and to the feedback we received we were able to learn a lot from this event. 

We used this learning to help us to underpin the  2013 conference planning on two questions:
“Should mental health services be shaped by the question what happened to you rather than what’s wrong with you?”  
"If so, how can mental health participation influence such a fundamental change to our mainstream mental health services?"
As well as asking us to provide more opportunities to explore the de-medicalisation of distress, you also told us that future conferences should include:

"...time for exceptional and inspirational speakers that bring to the debate their own experience of mental distress"
... no pressure then! 

So A Big Thank You To Jacqui Dillon...

Given this we were absolutely delighted when Jacqui Dillon agreed to come to Powys and talk at this conference.  We think that she fitted the bill and luckily you don't have to take my word for it,  you can watch her full talk here.

“Jacqui Dillon is one of the most inspirational speakers I have ever met, thank you for enabling me to be part of today"

Jacqui Dillon is a writer, campaigner, international speaker and trainer.  She is the National Chair in England of the international Hearing Voices Network.  Her talk was entitled "The Personal is Political" and you can download the slides here

She began by sharing something of her own story, her experiences and her survival strategies.  Survival strategies such as self-harm, hearing voices, eating "disorder", creativity and resourcefulness.  Survival strategies that are often judged by mainstream wisdom as "symptoms" of "mental illness" rather than a natural and normal response to difficult life experiences.

She then shared her own experience of mental health services which she summarised against 6 themes:
  • Pathologised:  "You are ill. Everything that you say and do will be seen as a consequence of your illness."
  • Denial:  ‘It never happened’ or ‘It did happen but you will never recover’.
  • Medication:  ‘You are resistant and the fact that you don’t want to take medication is evidence that you are ill’ .
  • Dependency & Compliance: ‘You must accept the psychiatric diagnosis and medication and we will give you benefits and a bus pass’. 
  • Disempowered: ‘You will never recover. You will always have this illness. You won’t be able to work’.
  • Passive:  ‘You do not know what is best for you. We know what is best for you’. her own experience of mental distress

Then she talked about finding a new paradigm, which she broke down into 4 main areas:
  • Trauma & Recovery
  • Understanding Dissociation
  • Attachment Theory
  • The Personal Is Political 
She shared some of the latest research findings around childhood adversity & psychosis, for example:
  • People abused as children are 9.3 times more likely to develop "psychosis"; for those suffering the severest kinds of abuse, the risk rises to 48 times (Janssen et al., 2004).
  • People who have endured three kinds of abuse (e.g., sexual, physical, bullying) are at 18-fold higher risk of psychosis, whereas those experiencing five types are 193 more likely to become psychotic (Shevlin et al., 2007).
  • People with "psychosis" are three times more likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA) than those with other diagnoses, and 15 times more likely to have been abused than non-patients (Bebbington et al., 2004).
She ended her talk by suggesting some answers to the question:  "What is to be done?".  Her ideas can be read in detail on the slides from her talk available here.

I highly recommend watching her talk (just over an hour).  So far over 1,000 people have viewed it and the feedback, not only from the conference but also from people who have watched her talk on youtube, has been incredibly positive.

 Further Information and Videos From Shaping Services Together 2013

Jo Mussen, Vice Chair of Powys Teaching Health Board and their Lead for Mental Health, Chaired the morning, as part of her conference introductions which included a thought provoking reading from the Robert Whitaker book,  Anatomy of an Epidemic.  The extract was entitled “A Modern Plague” and it can be read here

Sian Richards, Welsh Government Strategy Lead, National Mental Health Partnership Board, alongside other partnership members, and David Crepaz-Keay, Head of Empowerment and Social Inclusion, Mental Health Foundation, talked next presenting us with a presentation entitled “Together for Mental Health” that provided the latest information about: 

  • The National Mental Health Partnership Board

  •  Developing a National Forum for strategic participation in national and local mental health partnership boards 
You can listen to this in full (36 minutes) here.
Powys Youth Forum and Clwyd Theatr Cymru developed, planned, led and ran a participatory workshop on the theme: “Wisdom Across All Ages”.  This helped us to begin to explore participation for people of all ages.
You can find out more about the conference and read a full conference report (12 pages) here.

Unconventional Wisdom:  The Debate Continues 7th March 2014

Free Conference:  Wales Early Intervention Service Conference:  Finding Meaning in "Psychosis"?
Friday 7th March 2014.  The Pavilion, Llandrindod Wells Powys.  9.30 am for refreshments.  Finish 4.30 pm.   
Another chance to join us and find out more about the debate that challenges the conventional wisdom and to explore the question:  “Should mental health services be underpinned by the question what happened to you rather than the question what is wrong with you?”. 
Speakers Are:
Euan Hails - Clinical Lead Psychosis Services, Hywel Dda Health Board.  Bio to follow.  But to find out more about his work click here.
Eleanor Longden - an award-winning postgraduate researcher with a specialist interest in psychosis, trauma, and dissociation. She is a three times TED speaker, a trustee of Intervoice: The International Network for Training, Education, and Research into Hearing Voices and Soteria Network UK, and has lectured and published internationally on promoting creative, person-centred approaches to understanding and recovering from psychosis.  More here.
Dr Lucy Johnstone - consultant clinical psychologist and the author of 'Users and abusers of psychiatry' (2nd edition Routledge 2000) and co-editor of 'Formulation in psychology and psychotherapy: making sense of people's problems' (2nd edition Routledge 2013) along with a number of other publications taking a critical perspective on mental health theory and practice.   More here
Dr Sami Timimi - Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Director of Medical Education in the National Health Service in Lincolnshire and a Visiting Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Lincoln, UK. He writes from a critical psychiatry perspective on topics relating to mental health and has published over a hundred articles and tens of chapters on many subjects including childhood, psychotherapy, behavioural disorders and cross-cultural psychiatry.  More here.
This conference is an opportunity to explore:
  • how we understand and make sense of these “psychotic” experiences
  • best practice in early intervention responses that help people and those close to them cope with these experiences, learn from them and thrive
  • the interactions, treatments and ideas that make a positive difference to people’s lives and how we make sure that these are offered with openness and transparency
  • interventions and treatments that early intervention services could deliver and how they might continue to develop
Interested in joining us?  To find out more about this conference and to get more detail about how to book, click here or contact the team on, telephone 01686 628 300.


  1. Impressed with the things here really feeling good after reading your post here.

    1. Thanks for your comment, glad you enjoyed reading it. Laura