Who are you? What do you do?
Filmmaker and public relations consultant, university lecturer.
Mental Health Activist.
I was so astonished by my dreadful experience of secondary care mental health services that while I was able to walk away from the treatment to protect what little sanity I had left – I have been unable to walk away from the problem.
Since 2008 I have been working with West London Mental Health NHS Trust to improve patient experience. I have been a paid service user consultant delivering authentic co-production practice since 2013. The projects include ‘eliminating the need for control, restraint and seclusion’, ‘shared decision making around medication’ and developing an ‘independent user voice’. Our work on restraint has been featured on Radio 4 and we are hosting a sold out co-produced conference on shared decision making with international speakers this week.
I have also been speaking internationally on our co-production projects in both Australia and New Zealand. I am a Winston Churchill Fellow, a Millennium Award winner and a current CLAHRC fellow.
What has been your most notable radical accomplishment or experience?
The West London Collaborative.
I eat, drink & sleep the Collaborative. Its about to become a legal entity. It’s an innovative model for a health and social care community interest company – a radical, citizen led consultancy that’s serves commissioners and providers. We will cover the 8 London boroughs of North West London and our membership and workforce will be local people who have experienced first hand the local health and social care services. That’s the hospitals, GP’s, children’s homes, various care pathways, urgent care, crisis care and social services.
As a collaborative will work in equal partnership with professionals and teams, to design, deliver and evaluate services, co-produce policies and where invited, hold organisations to account. We will argue, innovate, question, debate, challenge and crucially actually resolve big health and social care problems – together. We bring local knowledge and say it as it is – as long as we keep solutions focused.
We also partner with national and international academics, innovators, mavericks, activists, artists and artisans that push us to think way outside our own experience and comfort zones.
The Collaborative invests all profits back into our community via an ‘assets based community development’ model. This will grow our community resilience, remove dependency on creating unnecessarily medicalised services and prevent people having to use ‘services’ if avoidable.
We will create spaces to grow active citizenship, creating dialogues about our communities and the nature of power – replacing tedious top down monologues. We will challenge and pose questions such as “just who is dependent on who?”
Empowering citizens and creating real dialogue should not be radical – but it is. Citizens are a hugely untapped resource for working in authentic partnership to create the kind of grass roots change our communities so desperately need.
When did you first realise that you are a health & care radical?
Once upon a time… about two years ago in the same week;
Saturday night; Shepherd Bush – 10.30 pm – all my friends tucked in at a local pub. I’m stuffing conference packs with promotional junk as a trade off for my conference place on Monday.
Tuesday morning; 11am, I’m slumped in the mud in Richmond Park, weeping and wailing with my bewildered dachshunds as yet another text tells me that the Indian High Commission has rejected my application for a film visa on yet another technicality. (It took 11 attempts, a face-to-face interview and 16 months for me to get permission to make a film for my Churchill fellowship about recovery in an Indian research hospital – but I GOT IT!!)
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP!
Thursday late afternoon; I’m standing on a sardine packed and very delayed train all the way from a conference on restraint Derby, loudly arguing the case as to why my proposed cake celebration for World Mental Health was empowering and liberating and not a security risk…As I dramatically shout “this is about challenging stigma…about our civil rights & our human Rights!!”- the tightly packed & weary commuters break out into cheers…then giggle…then fits of laughter.
What advice do you wish someone had given you earlier in your career?
Slowly, slowly catch the monkey.
I’ve been rather impatient and easily frustrated by short sighted dullards or those risk-averse laggards but now I’m older I understand people will only move at their own pace.
What is your favourite radical characteristic?
Having ideas and brainwaves… and finding fabulous new things and inspirational people…
What is your favourite question?
What shall we do about that?
What one clue tells you you’re affecting positive change?
When I am really, really challenging or have just deconstructed the meaning of the entire health care system – and people are still happily talking to me.
What do you think it’s most important for people to understand about radicals?
That my silence does not constitute agreement with you, some times I am just tired…or bored…
Or have learnt to live to fight another day.
What’s your one word piece of advice for radicals?
What’s your one word piece of advice for non-radicals?
Where do you think radicals are most needed today?
All institutions, especially universities, government & hospitals.
Who is your favourite radical from the past 100 years?
I have changed the question: Who are your three favourite radicals from the last 100 years?
The whole Zapatista movement from 1994
What’s the one thing you should never say to a radical?
How do you rate yourself as a radical?
A fledgling. Still learning to fly.