London Met Connect – event review #LMetConnect

Welcome to another blog post. You know? I like attending well-being days and health events, especially events to do with mental health. Well I was in luck, on Thursday the 23rd of October, I just managed to attend the London Metropolitan university “London Met Connect”, which was presented by the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities.

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The aim of the event was to get people thinking about mental health. The event gave attendees the opportunity to explore mental health and recovery from a number of perspectives, these including service user participation and local, nation and global initiatives.

Unfortunately I could not attend the full event, but it ran from 9:30 am till 8:00 pm. There was a series of discussions from Richmond Fellowship, MIND in Camden and NSUN otherwise known as the National Survivor User Network.

We also had Professor John Gabriel Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities present and introduce Professor Suman Fernando book launch called “Mental Health Worldwide”.

Race & Culture

I even booked myself a ticket for a play called “The Man who would be King”. Unfortunately I could not stay for the performance. There were also various stalls, panel discussions, Q&A sessions, webinar from GlobalNet21 and video screenings.

So ok, a lot was going on that day, but what did I manage to catch? Well with some luck I just caught Naomi James present on what NSUN is all about. Naomi James is NSUN’s London Network Co-ordinator and she presented on the following.

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The meaning of the word Survivor where its not just enough to be a service user, but how one has to survive the mental health. Naomi talked about mental health stigma and how difficult it is to survive such issues. She also mentioned to the audience to think carefully about the idea of recovery and what that means. I feel recovery should be the main aim of those using services, but as we know this is a difficult bridge to cross for so many reason.

So a good question to ask is what does NSUN do?

Taken from their site, NSUN network for mental health is an independent, service-user-led charity that connects people with experience of mental health issues to give them a stronger voice in shaping policy and services. The National Survivor User Network (NSUN) is an independent mental health service user/survivor led organisation.

The network was set up by service users to build a more united and confident mental health service user movement. It recognises the isolation and discrimination experienced by mental health service users and their needs beyond clinical treatment.

You can find out more about NSUN off their site, which is http://www.nsun.org.uk/

Going back to the event, Naomi showed a series of YouTube videos and I noticed some people I knew appearing on the videos.

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Here is one of the videos called “NSUN Values based Commissioning”

After the video Naomi talked more about the following being

* The ethics of survivor research
* The role of institutions in research
* 4PI Standards for involvement, which I thought was one of the most important aspects of Naomi’s presentation. We have to involve those who have first hand knowledge and experience of suffering mental health problems, although I also feel the need to point out that not all mental ill health is viewed as a problem for those experiencing mental health, but it is important that each survives and inputs their experience into services and research.

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Other aspects of Naomi’s talk was on

* Always questioning what is being improved on mental health
* Who is reliant on who
* Avoiding research that is not buried in jargon or language

Naomi also answered questions on why there was a large number of BME over-representation in the mental health sector and the problems of funding for projects.

Another good question focused on if survivor led research was too subjective.

Next up from the event was a book launch from Professor Suman Fernando. His new book is called “Mental Health Worldwide”.

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Professor Suman was introduced by Professor John Gabriel who spoke about the impact of racism in mental health and mentioned a bit on Frantz Fanon ideas. Frantz who was a Martinique-born Afro-French psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary.

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Professor John also spoke about mental health and racism in literature and spoke about a section of the book called “Of Mice & Men” where we had the only black man in the novel called “Crooks” who is always made to feel like the outsider and how he buries himself safely away from those who verbally attack him.

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Prof John felt that we should not assume we know the beliefs of others due to cultural identity.

We then had Prof Suleman speak about the movement mental health and the background of his book. Prof Suleman mentioned how history had perceived those suffering mental health from enlightened wise men to being shut away from society to being ridiculed and then to being part of a large mental health system that can cause many to feel trapped.

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Prof Suleman felt that psychiatry is still new and the concept of the mind is still fuzzy and difficult to unravel. Suleman then spoke about how the Americans had set the standard by creating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the issues psychiatry had impacted on society.

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Suleman was very critical of the mental health system in the west as he spoke about different perceptions of mental health throughout the world. You can always find out more of Professor Suleman’s views from his site called http://www.sumanfernando.com/

All in all I enjoyed attending the event, even though many were critical of the mental health system, it just goes to show there is still a long way to go and it was very important for academics and service users to present to us their views. There is always a for and against, plus those who may sit on the fence, but its worth it to hear all sides.

I feel it was just a shame I could not catch the all of the event.

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