Four Moray Wellbeing Hub Champions made the journey to Aberdeen earlier this month to represent the project as part of Making Recovery Real in Moray.
This initiative from the Scottish Recovery Network, the national organisation that promotes the concept that anyone can live a full life with or without symptoms of mental illness, was key in securing funding for our project this year.
It presented the opportunity to work with other organisations in Moray that otherwise we would not have had the chance to connect with as an equal partners in a group. These organisations, such as Moray Health and Social Care, TSI Moray, SAMH, Quarriers and local mental health organisation Moray Anchor Project, all supported our application by agreeing to help support our work.
With just two areas in Scotland able to win the support from the SRN as part of this initiative, it was a fantastic boost to Moray to have been awarded this opportunity. Just over a year later the SRN invited us all to share our Moray journey with the team in Dundee who won the other slot, and therefore a trip to a central point, Aberdeen, was arranged.
The event saw both areas give a short presentation on why we had wanted to be part of the initiative, what we had done and where we were off to next. For Moray our presentation was delivered jointly by Joyce Lorimer, from the Moray Health and Social Care, and Heidi Tweedie, one of our Champions and our project’s Peer Researcher/ Development worker. We then split in to groups to get to know one another and share experiences and ideas, as well as heard from key speakers about related topics such as the Government’s 10 year Mental Health Strategy and wider information on the Scottish Recovery Network. We also met other peer leaders from organisations such as the Hearing Voices Network.
For our Champions this was a new experience, firstly it presented a great opportunity to get up to speed with Making Recovery Real, Heidi had been the only link for the initiative back to the main body of the project, and it felt an excellent time to bring fresh perspectives in as well as widen the representation. Secondly it was a great opportunity for an outing to Aberdeen, a change of scenery where we could get to know each other better and strengthen the sense of being a team.
Whenever we do any activity as Champions for the Moray Wellbeing Hub project we record our personal reflections on how things felt for us as individuals passionate about creating change. This also gives us space to look at what needs changed and work out our next actions to improve what we are doing.
Looking over our reflection notes it’s clear that the four of us, although very different in our experience in attending similar events and chatting with providers of services, found the event useful in achieving personal as well as shared goals.
We had the opportunity to influence decision makers with our personal experiences regarding subjects like experiences of using mental health services, the role of caring for loved ones experiencing mental health challenges, the power of eco-therapy and gratitude work in promoting wellbeing for all ages, and why access to peer led self-management tools was vital. It also gave us the chance to reflect on our own project as part of the landscape of creating change in Moray, as one Champion reflected,
“I do feel I’m starting to understand more, where the hub fits in with the Moray services. It feels like this could really happen, and things are starting to fall in to place”.
But it was what we gained personally that was most clear from our reflections;
“I spoke to some key people who will help me create change and built on existing relationships. I got very positive feedback from other participants on the day including – “I’ll make sure you get through to the right person.” “I want to continue this conversation”.”
“My listening skills and understanding to speak and add my own views, my confidence at talking in public feeling self-worth, all were increased.”
“I didn’t feel intimidated. People didn’t have their hat on on, so you could be talking to anybody – felt quite comfortable talking, and I felt as if there was a connection between everyone in the room at the event. I felt I was listened to.”
“People were really impressed with our project. They could see that we were trying something a bit different and that we could help them achieve their work as well.”
“I felt proud to be part of a team representing our project, less like a vulnerable lone voice and more supported and powerful. It was really fun.”
There is always room for growth however, and one thing did come up as something that we would like to change. It was noticeable that when some people from more professional perspectives were less comfortable or wanted to express subjects they were passionate about, they tended to use words that we struggled to understand.
Use of language is powerful, it can create barriers between people where there is actually a lot more commonality, and this reflection is very useful for our project going forward. As well as sharing this with our Making Recovery Real partnership, we will be particularly mindful of this in future, both for ourselves as Champions and the perspectives we represent, but also in our role to try to help others from professional backgrounds to understand how this can make people feel excluded, stigmatised and challenge recovery.
Overall there was a lot of laughter and getting to know each other, things that are vital to making our project successful and challenging the personal barriers we create that limit ourselves. Best expressing the strongest message of success from our trip that we all shared, is this quote from one Champion about what was the purpose of the day,
“To go on a day out with friends and meet new people. This is very important for me just now.”