Lewisham Mental Health Conference 2015 – Speaking Out & Creating Community

Welcome to another blog post on mental health and carers. This blog post is on the Lewisham Mental Health Connection conference for 2015.

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The Lewisham Mental Health Connection or LMHC for short stands to put mental health awareness on the map in Lewisham. It is not to say that other organisations do not do enough to raise mental health awareness and combat mental health issues, but with the LMHC the power is in the connections where organisations, groups and individuals work together to make a change in the community.

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The LMHC has grown from strength to strength each year and have managed to make more connections, empower more service users through involvement and tackle difficult questions throughout Lewisham.

For 2015 the LMHC conference focused on “Speaking out & Creating community”. The event was very well organised and packed with many of the public, lived experienced, carers and stakeholders. The event was brought about by Lewisham Council, Equinox Lewisham, Social Interest group, Quo Vadis Trust and the LMHC.

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Usually I would write how the event turned out, but I thought this time I would blog about my experiences at the conference. The conference started at 9:00 over at the Civic Suite, I was greeted by friendly staff as I entered the conference and handed my delegate pack and raffle ticket. It was not long before I noticed many connections from the community who had an interest in attending the conference. I also met a councillor and governor from South London & Maudsley, but he could not stay long. In fact quite a lot of councillors had attended this conference which impressed me.

I spoke to friends and colleagues who wanted to spread awareness of how mental health has affected their lives. I spoke to fellow carer Kelvin Wheelan and I also was impressed to see Healthwatch Lewisham & Bromley attend. It was also great to see many organisers of the LMHC attend as I managed to chat to Charlotte briefly, although I could see how busy she was rushing around trying to greet and meet many attendees.

One of the things that impressed me was the amount of leaflets, posters and booklets placed on the information stands. If there is anything that can help the community, it is information and I glanced through a lot of info. I also wanted to place members leaflets from the mental health trust that covers south & South east London, plus I wanted to advertise the “Carer Mental Health Forum”, which I have set up with Carers Lewisham.

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Another stall was provided by the South London & Maudsley Carers support officers who also provided a workshop on caring in the community and Carers Trust’s Triangle of Care, more on that later.

It was not long before I wanted a refreshing and health drink and I was interested to see how these were made. There was a smoothie bike machine, which I took to try out. See video below.

After drinking the smoothie, I felt the difference such a drink can have, which reminds me that eating and drinking healthy can reap benefits for the mind and body. As the conference talks started, I listened to talks from Penrose Options and a story of Gordon about how he coped through personality disorders. Unfortunately I was hoping to hear a talk from Fiona who is a prominent Mental Health activist, but she was unwell that day.

Eventually it was time for the workshops and we had an option of 4 workshops to attend. These were

Arts Nework – Arts and Self-Expression Zone
JobCentre Plus & SIRS : Benefits, training, education & employment support
The Reader Organisation : Shared Reading group
Bromley & Lewisham Mind : MindKit Wellbeing & Resilience

Of course I wanted to attend them all, but it was not possible since some were packed out and I still kept chatting and talking to more attendees to the conference. After a while I decided to attend the Arts Network Zone.

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I was greeted by Mo Saunders from Arts Network and I took some time to view the brilliant arts display, which was carefully arranged in the room. I then decided to try out some colouring to enhance my creativity.

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I then moved on to the Jobcenter plus & SIRs workshop, the talk provided by the Social Inclusion group presented very well and I was delighted that the SIRs staff recognised me since I was “involved” in inspecting their services some months back. It is known that those suffering mental health issues can become so isolated from society that its near impossible for them to get into work, let alone volunteer and fulfil their potential, SIRs gives support to try and change such situations.

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After speaking to the mental health lead from Carers Lewisham, we both attended the “SLaM & Carers Lewisham workshop”. This workshop was on supporting and reaching out to families & Carers. Of course there were other workshops in the afternoon session which were.

Lewisham Council: Sharing your priorities for improving mental health and bridging gaps in services.
Arts Network Self-Expression Zone
Mark Brown’s Online Communities – Get involved, stay safe and speak out
Quo Vadis Trust: Empowerment to make decisions & Self-esteem.

I wish I could attend them all, but being a mental health carer, I decided to attend the SLaM & Carers Lewisham workshop. We heard detailed information on Staff needing to be “carer aware”, the principles of Triangle of Care and a question and answer session for those who attended. Many good questions were raised by Kelvin Wheelan.

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Soon it was time for a health lunch, which I certainly enjoyed while chatting to many of the residents of Lewisham who attended the conference, this gave each of us to make more connections.

After lunch it was back in the council chamber to hear from the Commissioners who commission mental health services for the borough of Lewisham, this session was chaired by Antony Miller who is the director of Operations from Penrose Options. The audience heard from Kenny Gregory who is the joint commission lead for Adult mental health services – Lewisham CCG, we also heard from Mike Hammond who is the contract manager for the borough and Mary Gilbank the clinical services lead for complex care within SLaM.

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There were impressive things about the conference, but to bring in such guest speakers was most impressive as without engagement from commissioners then it is hard to know if services are well recieved.

The next session was on speaking out.

The speakers were

John Ihuomah from Equinox Lewisham on the Nine Lives film about Schizophrenia
The Lewisham Borough “Mental Health Champion” Cllr Johnathan Slater
Then myself speaking about caring within the community.

It was a shame I had to go early, because I had a governors meeting, so I felt honoured to give my speech to the council chamber. At first I thought my message was very strong, but at the same time if members of the community do not speak out, then how is any change to come? There is power in taking action, but this power must first come from the voice, we must learn what the community is experiencing so we can tailor services and engage with them.

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Overall I felt the conference was a success, I felt honoured to be given the chance to speak out and be part of the conference as I feel honour to do a write up about the event. I also felt proud to be part of a community that attended the conference. For each resident, organisation and stakeholder that attended the conference, the more I felt the community cared about mental health and how mental health affected their lives.

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Sorry for not being able to mention all organisers and attendees since there was so many, special thanks goes out to Charlotte Tarant for organising the conference.  Plus a special thanks for Sarah who created the logo for the 2015 conference.

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I will continue to raise awareness of mental health carers and mental health.

If you wish to check out their last conference which was in 2014, please check out my video shown below.

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