Terry, Carer ‘EbE’ (Expert by Experience) and Psychological Professions Steering Group Member.
My name is Terry and I’m writing this blog from my perspective as a Carer ‘EbE’ (Expert by Experience) and I also have a role on the steering group for Psychological Professions Week 2022 (#PsychologicalProfessionsWeek2022, #PPWeek22) – apologies about all the acronyms!
The online sessions organised for this week are really diverse and offer unique insights into the world of psychology and psychological professionals. The audience is broad, from practicing professionals, policy and strategy advisers, commissioners, etc., to members of the general public who want to see what’s happening in the world of psychology and mental healthcare, those who are contemplating a career in the psychological professions or, like me, want to contribute as an expert-by-experience to help inform the professions with their knowledge.
Personally, what particularly interests (and frustrates!) me is the present gulf between the provision of physical healthcare and mental healthcare in this country – at times they seem to operate in different universes! If you fall over and break your arm you know the path - hospital, x-ray, a plaster cast your friends and family can write on, time spent manipulating a stick to scratch the interminable itch until finally your arm is freed to re-enter the world and you can resume normal life. However, health is more than physical and when you encounter a challenge to your mental wellbeing historically you would probably speak to understanding friends and family, and then try to access specialist and professional support hoping waiting lists and access times were not too long. The other option sadly is to say nothing and keep your worries to yourself, but this only escalates problems. The now universal option of self-referral via NHS Talking Therapy (IAPT: Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) services is a start in addressing this.
Caring for my wife has brought these issues to a head for me and illuminated what, for many, is strikingly obvious – we are not beings with neatly compartmentalised physical health and mental health, we are people with varying levels of wellbeing requiring a holistic approach which embraces physical and mental health. A physical health issue can so easily impact your mental wellbeing and your mental health affect your physical wellbeing, and together they determine your prospects of recovery and outcome. Unfortunately, our current healthcare model does not reflect that this is the case!
I believe there is a pressing need to transform the way mental health is perceived by the public, healthcare professionals and healthcare institutions. We need to improve outcomes for service users and a starting point is to reduce/get rid of the barriers that restrict communication between different professionals. This would help in improving communication between psychological professionals in different services as well as the wider health and care workforce.
Service users, carers and families must be seen as the epicentre of the healthcare system. Every individual should be treated holistically to address their physical, mental and social care needs. The provision of care must be grounded in and shaped by the experiences of people, they are NOT just ‘patients’ with an issue to be resolved. The system should be modified to respond to how people are and what they need, not for people to conform to what is expedient and suitable for healthcare professionals and systems. This focus will also inform the language and terminology that is used so that it is readily understood by lay people who have little knowledge and experience of all the acronyms and ‘isms’.
So, having shared my thoughts and concerns with you, I must say I am looking forward to a week of sessions on the psychological professions that will be a forum for discussion, the open exchange of ideas, the acquisition of new knowledge, the discreet shifting of mindsets and, fingers crossed, a step forwards toward a better future.
On Monday there will be a variety of regional events. Tuesday will bring a session about how the psychological professions should respond to the pressing demands of society, and then another about how members of the public can get involved and contribute to the psychological professions – this will be designed and presented by Experts by Experience (EbEs). Wednesday starts with an introduction to the Psychological Professions Network and the work they do, followed by a session on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). Thursday is for those contemplating moving into the psychological professions or who are already in it and want to progress their careers. Friday’s session tackles the topic of involving psychological professionals in physical healthcare and primary healthcare settings.
So, a full week for everyone!
Please register to watch and take part in Psychological Professions Week 2022. For more information go to www.ppn.nhs.uk.
Live then recordings will be available for viewing following the conference.