Service User Academia Symposium Takeaways

The CPN’s Consumer Academics recently attended the Service User Academia Symposium
(SUAS) in Wellington, Aetoroea (New Zealand). Consumer Academic Hamilton Kennedy has reflected on their takeaway messages.

We were first struck by the extremely strong bicultural integration of this conference. Every session was opened and closed with a Karakia. The opening Karakia were meant to make people feel comfortable and supported in sharing any ideas that they have. The closing, was to clear the head and spirit so people are able to continue on with their day. Whilst this was the Service Users Academia Symposium there were all sorts of people present and all sorts of learning for people regardless of their stripes!

We first heard from Jayasaree Kalathill who was a historian of activism and advocacy of Black and Asian mental health service users. They encouraged us to do our research and work in different ways. In a way that honours the histories of people from different backgrounds. Jayasaree reflected upon Stree Shakti Sanghatana, that “to be deprived of a past is to inherit an impoverished present and a future sealed off from change”. Nurses can notice and share stories of injustice, survival, resistance, from those they are working with. We believe that this can create a different type of world.

Hannah Komatsu made us reconsider assumptions made about mad experience. She challenged the idea that they are always unfruitful bouts of suffering and suggested to us that these times are full of growth and insight. Nurses might be encouraged to to explore with people the meaning of their experiences rather than just observing.

CPN’s Helena Roennfeldt and Rory Randall presented “It’s not all magic unicorn dust” which shared stories of difficulty and triumph in academic publishing. They considered what is lost in service of fitting prescriptive academic standards. Where might we find a home for important emotive writing? We also feel that these academic standards disadvantage nurses and others' personal experiences.

Helena SUAS 2019

An overview of New Zealand’s Like Minds Like Mine; a programme to uphold the mana and rights of people who experience mental distress highlighted how far along Australian has to go to change the discourse of anti-stigma/awareness campaigns to actually address discrimination. They were also a plethora of community support iniatives.

CPN’s Academics Cath Roper and Hamilton Kennedy presented their recent research to a packed crowd, whilst Phd candidate Vrinda Edan present about the utility of Advance Statements in the context of the Victorian mental health Act. Interestingly, whilst the team was in attendance at the symposium, New Zealand announced that they would be repealing their own mental health act. Australian nurses might consider the role they play in advocating for a similar move that could better uphold people's rights make support decision making work

Hamilton SUAS 2019

The second day began with Director of the CPN, Bridget Hamilton presenting her reflections on allyship, ethics and identity. Through giving a narrative account of the origins of her allyship, she encourages us and nurses to get together and work upon the problems that are near to us.

Bridget SUAS 2019

Debra Lampshire reacquainted with the Power Threat Meaning framework as it applied to her experience of talking back to voices. The Power Threat Meaning framework is clearly a great companion to the Hearing Voices Movement but also nursing practice. This framework helps us to understand how a person experiences different sources of danger, considering their worldview which might offer a starting point for supporting them in a more meaningful way.

Dasha Fedchuk and Tony Dowell examined the challenges and successes that can come with Co-Production. They shared that even though this is their regular practice, it can still be challenging. This reminds us of the need for an ongoing commitment to this processes. An attentiveness to power in any kind of practice or research is especially important.

Nurses should be aware that the current standard of treatment for people involves using supported decision making. This is different from substitute decision making or shared decision making which has been used in the past. Sarah Gordon, has dedicated much of her efforts to ensure that students at her university know this, but we all ought to know how to make support decision making work.

Whilst we were in New Zealand we visited Crisis Alternative, Piri Pono. This is staffed by peer support workers and a nurse. Interestingly, here even the nurses have a lived experience of mental distress. Considering the findings of the Interim Report from the Royal Commission into Victorians Mental Health System, that there will be a new peer-led service, nurses with a lived experience might utilise this in future work.

Peri Pono 2019

Another opportunity CPN staff had whilst in Wellington was to sit in on a day of the World of Difference training, a program offered by Sarah Gordon’s Department of Psychological Medicine to medical student before both of their psychiatric rotations. This training was the second in the series, following an induction into recovery, focused on the Charter of Human Rights for Persons with a Disability and how this interplays with mental health service provision. It was fabulous to see what priorities shifted for doctors to be in conversation with lived experience facilitators. This training was followed up with a tutorial, personal reflection pieces from students and weeks placement in a consumer led organisation. Similar training is available for police staff, psychiatric registras and clinical psychology students.

Lastly, learning from the multicultural nature of New Zealand, Australia has a significant way to go in  mproving its relationship and practices with first nations people. Acknowledging this  is the first step but it is not enough. Respecting and embracing different cultures and  reflecting on your relationship to first nations people is another small step.