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System Failure

We were once again privileged to work with the medical students at the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York. Here, we were able to share on the problems and puzzles of where both people and institutions succeed and fail in mental health care provision...

OOC's Wayne debates with students the appropriateness, or otherwise, of allowing horror films to be shown in psychiatric hospitals 

OOC's Wayne debates with students the appropriateness, or otherwise, of allowing horror films to be shown in psychiatric hospitals 

For this workshop we built on a lot of work we had been doing across Yorkshire with the Wy-Fi (West Yorkshire Finding Independence) project. In many of these workshops we had discovered the terrible consequences of what happens when systems fail. As we worked with the brilliant medical students at the University of York we hoped that our perspective might help their own training. For many of us at OOC it is the power of the caring individual working, often against the system, that has made the crucial difference in recovery.  Whilst most organisations are set up to make a difference we wanted to communicate what things had genuinely made a difference for good, or for ill, in our own lives.

This has brought fantastic learning to our project. The skill of the company...in bringing people’s everyday life experience of mental ill-health, whether in treatment or not, to the fore, in my view, couldn’t be replicated by other research methods. To do it with such care and with humour is exceptional. The participants and audiences have all commented on the resonances they felt as professionals and as people including both the absurdities and the grind.
— Mark Crowe WY-FI Research & Evaluation Co-Ordinator

As with our Wy-Fi work we provoked discussion and debate with a little performance. We began with Laurie's song 'Rescue Me.' This was followed with our reflections on the closure of Bootham Psychiatric Hospital in Bootham Montage. We had a few more actors at this workshop than our last Wy-Fi workshop and this meant a few more stories from the inside of that institution. After this performance we used the Open Spaces conference technique of asking each OOC actor to create a 'mini-space' with an issue to discuss based on their own experience. The students could spend the bulk of the workshop talking to one actor on a particular topic or move from actor to actor getting to grips with a range of issues. 

OOC's Sam talks about the ethics of physical restraint.

OOC's Sam talks about the ethics of physical restraint.

OOC's Laurie talks about the double challenge of living on the streets with mental illness and the temptations of self-medication.

A fascinating and engaging set of presentations yesterday.  Each were valuable in themselves and the actor-discussion element I think developed the method still further.  The themes you highlighted too offered crucial perspectives that will I’m sure help students to retain a user focus in their practice. 
— Jerome Wright Senior Lecturer in Mental Health

One of the recurring themes of our work this year has been the importance of 'real' listening as oppose to a trained listening or professional interest. This has been true, not only of our own experience, but also many mental health service users we have encountered across the whole of Yorkshire. We performed our short drama 'Lifeline' to illustrate the many disconnects that can occur between clients and medical professionals  especially when resources are stretched. 

OOC's Robin talks about the absurdities of some of the rules employed by psychiatric hospitals. 

OOC's Robin talks about the absurdities of some of the rules employed by psychiatric hospitals. 

As we come to the end of 2015 and as Bootham prepares to reopen its Secure Unit we look forward to a new era of Mental Health care. One that will be more resourced and, even if it isn't, that its greatest resource, the people, will find new ways of authentically supporting those in need of effective care.