Q&A: Lived experience voices series

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By ‘Tessa’.
An Expert by Experience member within My Care Academy – Guest blogger.

At My Care Academy we have created an expert reference group of people with lived experience of mental health services and signed up to the NSUN 4Pi standards on co-production . Within our partnership we are keen to elevate and amplify the voices of people with lived experience. Following on from a recent blog workshop with our expert reference group we’re launching a series of interviews with them to reflect on what they have enjoyed and learnt from co-producing and working together on My Care Academy.

A blog interview Q&A with ERG (Expert by Experience) member ‘Tessa’.

Q. Hello my name is…?

A: Tessa

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself?

A: I am a female mental health service user living in London. I have benefited from accessing NHS Mental Health services for a number of years. I have been looked after by caring and informed health professionals, and I am eager to use this lived experience especially for the training of new Mental Health professionals.

In my spare time, I enjoy listening to music, walking, socialising and spending quality time with my family and friends. I also enjoy watching sports like football and basketball, and I like keeping up to date with current affairs. I enjoy visiting new places and talking to people from other cultures. I like debates around development, community life, justice and inequality as well as gender issues.

Q. How long have you lived in London and what do you love about it?

A: I have lived in London for 15 years. I love London because it is a vibrant city. I enjoy the diversity of its inhabitants. It is a city full of energy and very rich in culture.

Q. Are you a cat or dog person?

A: I am a dog person.

Q. What mental health topics are you passionate about?

A: I am passionate about: PTSD, Depression and Anxiety, Peer coaching in Mental Health, and Stigma.

Q. Why did you join My Care Academy expert reference group?

A: The My Care Academy expert reference group to be able to use my mental health challenges and lived experience to share perspectives with fellow service users and the staff at Middlesex University. I have used my experiences to inform others about what good mental health services should look like and what a good mental health professional does, or should do. By sharing these ideas with fellow service user members of the group and the staff at My Care Academy and Middlesex University, we learn from each other. We are working with My Care Academy in order to use our voices and lived experience, to help co-produce learning materials for the virtual classroom. 

Q. What have you learnt from being part of My Care Academy?

A: I learnt from being part of the My Care Academy that co-production is important for mental health services, as it gives service users an opportunity to share lived experiences and inform professionals from health and social care.

Being part of the My Care Academy has taught me that co-production is vital to the improvement of mental health services. As a member of this group, I am able to share my lived experiences and to inform professionals (Health and Social Care), in the hope this information can help in improving practice. I also learn from my fellow group members, through our respective exchanges on the experience of using mental health services and the type of care we have received.

Q. What has My Care Academy learnt from your input and voice?

A: My Care Academy learnt from me what I appreciate about good mental health services and the type of attitude I would like mental health professionals to have towards service users.

Q. How has your lived experience helped shape the My Care Academy partnership work? (Would you be able to add your perspective on good mental health care)

A: My lived experience helped me to easily relate to the My Care Academy objectives; one of which is to co-develop e-learning materials for the Virtual Classroom, that health professionals can use to inform or improve their practice.

Good mental health care is the one that takes into account the service user’s needs in a holistic way; by taking into account all aspects of their life, rather than concentrating on their mental illness. It is one where professionals see the patient as a fellow human being first and as someone who needs help at a certain time in their life, as the same can happen to them or to a member of their own family. It is one that still shows respect and compassion even when the patient/service user is not at their best. And finally, good mental health care is a care that listens to what the patient, their family or carer say or wish, it is one where professionals are willing to work hand in hand with other services to support the patient to live a fulfilling life.

Q. How have you personally benefited from working with My Care Academy?

A: Working with My Care Academy gave me an opportunity to share with other members of this project about my understanding of what a good mental health service should look like. I have been able to use my co-production and team working skills. I am also networking through this new setting I am part of. I have been able to talk openly in a safe space and have felt listened to.

Working with My Care Academy gave me an opportunity to share with other members of this project about my understanding of what a good mental health service should look like. I have been able to use my co-production and team working skills. I am also networking through this new setting I am part of. I have been able to talk openly in a safe space and have felt listened to.

Q. What have you enjoyed about the co-production work with My Care Academy so far?

I have enjoyed learning from others by sharing different perspectives of mental health and lived experiences. I enjoyed having this arena to have my voice heard in terms of mental health service delivery.

Q. What tips would you give to other service users or carers considering getting involved in ERG groups or co-production?

I would tell them that this is a group worth joining if you want to use your lived experience to inform/influence policy in mental health service or inform professionals. Be open and feel free to share what you feel comfortable to share. Trust the staff that you will be working with; they are sensible and caring and won’t make you do anything that might harm you. They have health and safety of all expert reference group members at their heart.

Q. Can you describe a random act of kindness or empathy that you experienced as a service user and helped you, your family or friends that would inspire a new healthcare professional?

I have been treated as a fellow human being and the views about my care were always taken into consideration while deciding about the best treatment for me.  My health professionals made me feel good whenever they noticed I was looking healthy and energised, and they said it. They also remembered that I told them that a member of my family was not well and during my next appointment, they asked me how they were. This was a sign of someone who cares and is a good listener.

Q. If you wave a magic wand and change something about mental health care in London what would it be?

I would set up more women’s crisis houses in London where diversity of the London population is reflected in terms of the staff teams working in these houses.

Q. What language would you prefer healthcare and the media used to describe mental health and conditions?

I would like to see healthcare and the media use more sensitive terms and words. For example mental health difficulties or challenges, not necessarily medical terms or scientific names or other stigmatising words society uses time to time.

Q. How would you sum up My Care Academy in 3 words?

  • Useful
  • Informative
  • Interactive

Enjoyed reading this?
Read the first blog in our lived experience voices series here 

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