TWO Authors Attending Next #MadStudies Meeting
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
Exciting news!!! Our next Mad Studies group will feature not one - but TWO authors attending!!!!
Dr. Sarah Carr is the author of the recently published 'I am not your nutter' paper which we will be considering. I am really looking forward to this paper, which talks about some of the issues LXPs face, from both fellow people who are/have been service users or the organisations we work within. We are also being joined by Dr. Mohammed Abouelleil Rashed, the author of 'Madness and the Need for Recognition', which contains a compehensive history of the Mad movement and lists the key different approaches that exist. He also positions these in a way to allow an academic critique, which differs to binary approaches that either place Mad Knowledge on a pedestal or completely dismiss it as... well, mad. Both have kindly offered to attend our unfunded, grassroots group in person without charge or expenses payments.
#MadStudies as a discipline has been around for a while, but in Birmingham our grassroots group started up as a response to a need several of us were struggling to fill. I had just completed my MSc, and I was missing the sessions where I'd discuss papers with my fellow students. I was able to take those reflections and references to build cases for why as a pesky, over-educated but lowly LXP I wasn't approaching things in the Draconian Way. The region has seen an increase in the employment of LXPs, albeit at the lowest possible bands or on a voluntary basis. I noted the new bunch were at the starry eyed new starter stage, but the lack of organisational structures in place for supporting the teams they were working in, discipline specific supervision and reflective practice did not bode well. Soon, issues began to happen. I saw people struggling, including a friend who had an especially traumatic experience.
I didn't have the resources to provide the necessary supervision, and none of the organisations who were rolling out LXP employment would agree to funding an LXP specialist post that would ensure this happened.
I thought about the very basic things that tended to empower and support. Knowledge was power. Being with others who share similar experiences and sharing these provides support. I decided to start a group that would consider the work of Mad academics, to help people new to the discipline understand where it had come from, our history, and some of the common issues that are faced by many. This would help individuals to feel less alone, and less likely to internalise issues as being due to personal faults rather than the systemic issues that they were. The other benefit would be training up others to be confident enough to challenge the status quo when it was't helping service users. This is supposed to be part of the work of LXPs, but without support, it just isn't sustainable. Our colleagues are often senior professionals with degrees and doctorates. It is easy to feel inferior, and we need to constantly replenish our reserves when doing this kind of work to avoid burnout.
I realised that most people would not feel comfortable attending somewhere they were employed, particularly if they were off sick with stress or work related issues. We started our first pilot meeting in a coffee shop, before we were kindly offered a room by the School of Psychology at Birmingham University. After some thought I decided to keep the focus on Lived Experience Practitioners but to open the group to anyone with an interest in the area. This way, service users who were not LXPs but had an interest in either Mad Studies or working in service user involvement could attend. Staff or students could begin to learn and understand more about some of the issues that were faced by LXPs and hopefully have a good working relationship with them if they were ever part of a team that employed them.
It seemed win-win, however there have been some hurdles to overcome in terms of turning around some staff and LXP perceptions that a fundamentalist activist group where Che Guervara T-Shirts and hating of all mental health professionals were pre-requisites to attend. While that may sound hilarious, I have had flyers confiscated and adverts taken down in one organisation where I was told that the language had been considered 'offensive' by a (hopefully) well-meaning individual who appeared ignorant of this area of study but had the power to discourage people who may have needed the support from attending. 'Mad Studies' is the term coined by people with lived experience, who developed the discipline and ensured that the way was paved for Public & Patient Involvement funding to be allocated to Mental Health organisations. It is viewed as being a 'reclaimed' word, similar to the LGBTQ reclaimation of the word 'Queer'. We even have Mad Pride now!
Fortunately, we have a good core attendance, and people who attend find the group helpful. I am confident that with time and education, organisations which hold funding will start to understand why it is so important to actively support these grassroots initiatives. We are very appreciative to University of Birmingham for leading the way in doing this locally.
You are very welcome to attend our next meeting - we meet at 5pm - 6.30pm, 52, Pritchatts Road, University of Birmingham. This time we will meet in Room 108, which will allow for us to add a few chairs if necessary. There will be cake & debate. We very much look forward to seeing you here - please book your FREE place here.
If you would like to join us remotely via Zoom video conferencing software, you can do so using this link: https://zoom.us/j/246981639