The Voice Exchange project is inviting local residents to feedback about what inpatient mental health wards could look like in the future. To do this, you can now book a private, one-to-one meeting with Laura from the project to share your experiences and ideas. Who is it for? Anyone living in Westminster or Kensington & Chelsea Anyone who has been an …
On Saturday 10 July, the Voice Exchange project will be hosting their next virtual drop-in session. This is an open discussion where you can share your thoughts and suggestions about local mental health services in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea. When? 10am, Saturday 10 July Where? Via zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81461080031?pwd=QVF6K1ZUbFFxdDhCclBVOHdaeDlZZz09 Who? Anyone and everyone is invited! Thank you …
Last week, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, our Young Healthwatch Westminster volunteers were reflecting on the theme of nature and mental wellbeing.
Although Mental Health Awareness Week may now be over, it is still important to take time to prioritise our mental wellbeing and enjoy nature. Today, our volunteer Civan has written about the importance of nature and taking time out to reflect and recharge:
Nature is beautiful. It is where everything began. It was here long before any of us and will be here long after humans. Nature is nature. Nature is beautiful. Nature is the roots of us, the very idea of us humans, animals and plants.
Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and I urge everyone to take a bit of time out of their day to go to a green space where they can truly embrace nature. Studies have proved it is extremely beneficial and I believe that we all need some time away from a hectic world that we live in full of beauty yet conflict.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, our Young Healthwatch Westminster volunteers have been reflecting on the theme of nature and mental wellbeing.
Today, our volunteer Aaniya writes about walking, reflecting, and finding nature in the city:
During the first lockdown I went for a walk almost every single day. Perhaps because it was the only thing I was allowed to do, or maybe it provided an escape from online school – being outside was the exact opposite to being hunched over a desk staring at a screen. My nature wasn’t green fields or forests, but quiet roads, billowing trees and people-watching whilst in socially-distanced coffee queues. However, whilst taking in the sunlight and fresh air, things like exam uncertainty and missing friends faded into the background. Although being back at school and the relaxing of lockdown means I have less time to do, so going for walks is a new habit that I haven’t given up, and a simple one that helps give your mind a break.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week across the UK. This year, the theme for the week is nature. Our Young Healthwatch Westminster volunteers have been reflecting on the topic of mental health and nature. Over the next few days, we are sharing some of their reflections.
First up, our brilliant volunteer Ava has shared a poem she has written!
The feelings formed
Water stretches before me
Calm and even
But something underneath is unsteady
A contradiction if you like
Balancing like an unsteady foal
Students buckling under workload
But the whistling tree leaves
Still twirl down to give them solace
Each bush and fragmented bark
Scuffs your new polished shoes
Only to make you well with sadness
With the burden of responsibility you now face
But you seem to make yourself worry
Again and again
Only to stop when you see the triviality of the animals lives
The project was commissioned by Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) to explore ideas about the future of mental health services in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea. When we launched the project back in January, I have to admit I was a bit worried about whether or not meaningful conversations could take place between myself and people I had never actually met ‘in real life’.
In the past I have gathered lived experience in lots of ways…through focus groups, interviews, telephone calls and surveys. Yet I have always felt the best way to listen is in person, physically face-to-face. On one level, I still do believe this, but the pandemic has meant this has not been possible. The world has changed a lot since this time last year, so to run this project I have had to adapt as well.
So, how do you start conversations in a zoom-led world? More importantly, how do keep that conversation flowing, supporting people to be confident and honest despite having to share their voice from behind a computer screen?
The answer is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Listening, really listening, takes time and trust. I wasn’t sure this could be built up during zoom meetings, but I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised working with the Voice Exchange members.
The members meet every month to discuss inpatient and outpatient mental health services. Each meeting is on zoom and lasts about two hours. But we have also started communicating outside of these meetings, and I think that has helped develop stronger relationships.
Members have an e-newsletter which they receive once a month and we have coffee mornings, which are informal drop-in sessions for members to chat about non-project related topics. We have a Group Agreement, which gives us ground rules for the way we interact with one another – and engaging in a zoom-led world means we have had to consider things which wouldn’t apply in a face-to-face situation. For example, we have a rule about no smoking or vaping in zoom meetings. We also agreed that we need regular breaks because using video conferencing can be very tiring, even though you are not moving about or travelling to a venue.
Since we launched the Voice Exchange, I am learning to listen in new ways. I am tuning into tone of voice more, especially if someone has their camera turned off on zoom. I am beginning to appreciate that conversations are different via zoom, but that is OK.
Lived experience can still be collected in a meaningful way if everyone involved is committed to making it work. This is what I love about the Voice Exchange – everyone is dedicated to shaping the future of mental health services and is determined to make the project work, even if that has to be via zoom!
I hope that by the summer, I can actually meet people face-to-face again and bring together the members of the Voice Exchange. Until then, I am not too proud to admit that I have been proved wrong – conversations can be started in a zoom-led world and they can keep going with the support of everyone involved. Thank you to everyone making it possible so far.
You can find out more information about the Voice Exchange here.
Get in touch
If you would like to just leave us a single comment on how you have been impacted by Coronavirus, please click here
Send a text or a video to our Whatsapp number: 07849 08 40 14
Hello, I’m Laura and I am very excited to be writing this blog to tell you all about our latest project, the Voice Exchange.
Last year, we began chatting with Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) about the future of mental health services in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea. As champions of lived experience, we know just how important it is to listen to people, so we were thrilled to launch the Voice Exchange in January 2021.
So, what is it? Well, the Voice Exchange is a project that listens to people’s experiences of inpatient and outpatient mental health services. We do this in several ways – we have a Citizen’s Group, which meets once a month, made up of people with direct experience. We also have a Deliberation Group running alongside this, bringing together individuals who have extensive experience of representing service users.
We have now hosted our first virtual drop-in sessions as well. These are open for anyone to come along and share their experiences. Each session lasts an hour and our next one will be at 12pm on Saturday 10 April. You can find the information and zoom link at https://healthwatchcwl.co.uk/get-involved/voice-exchange/.
The project is running until September 2021 and we hope in the coming months to gather a wide range of views and experience. As we begin discussing what’s working and what could be improved, I will share updates here on this blog.
I would love to know your thoughts too – just come along to a drop-in session or email me using the details below.
Thank you to everyone who has been involved so far in the Voice Exchange – here’s to shaping the future!