"I'd recommend the experience to everyone"
"Before Joining Making Waves 3 years ago I had been involved with groups of individuals who had all like me suffered 'tagging' by diagnosis and stigma born of ignorance and fear. During the early days of my recovery from addiction with all it's psychological implications, I found their ideas / ideologies refreshing and understanding rather than hackneyed and itellectualised.
This 'groundwork', always stimulating and rewarding encouraged me to find my voice and take the story of my experience to a young professional sector where reciprocal learning has real value, bringing empowering, liberating - "level ground" understanding and mutual reward, in an increasingly us & them environment. I've found students to be enthusiastic / pro-active / shocked / surprised / appalled / inquisitive / changed?? (I hope so!) by a 'Real Deal' person."
"Although I've only been teaching for a year, I've found the experience of sharing my journey most rewarding, if only as a selfish opportunity to review what the hell has been going on with me. The desire to do it continues to be fuelled by contact with mental health professionals, nurses through to psychiatrists, who either think they've landed a cushy number or have less understanding of mental crisis than a locust at the wheel of a combine harvester.
Now and again, particularly with small groups of students, I've been able to tenderly coax personal and occasionally quite traumatic stories out, reflecting them back to illustrate how they have been not a million miles from where I've been, perhaps explaining why they have chosen this particularly demanding field of medical health. At its most rewarding, I've sensed a real breakthrough and a gathering desire to challenge the pervasive culture of control they have already encountered in ward experience.
There have also been opportunities to open the debate beyond the pat concepts of mental ill health laid down by the West, but there will always be the eye-rolling cynics at the back who can't imagine why the lessons of service users might be of any interest, and the blank faces that can wither you on the spot.
It is not for the faint hearted but recommended for those fighting the good fight."
"When the opportunity first arose for me to do some training for Making Waves, I jumped at it! In my opinion, clients and former clients of mental health services are in the best position of all to teach others about their experience. Nobody can understand the hell of going through a mental or emotional health problem better than those who have been there themselves. I think that so often, health professionals are massively out of touch with patient suffering, and that such a lack of empathy results in uncaring and sometimes abusive approaches to treatment and care. I believe that also, many health professionals (just like members of the general public) are terrified of mental or emotional health conditions, and this fear leads to further prejudice on their part. The stigma that accompanies any illness that comes under the ‘mental health' label itself makes the thought of getting any such condition absolutely horrifying, even amongst those professionals who have supposedly been educated on such matters.
Becoming a trainer for Making Waves allows those of us who've been through ‘the system' to approach the healthcare providers on a different footing. We are ‘experts' on our own experience of illness and treatment, and a teaching environment enables us to present those experiences on a different footing to the usual patient/doctor relationship. My experience of teaching NHS staff has been that they are always interested in what I have had to say, and I think sometimes they've been quite shocked by some of the things they have learned in the sessions I have taken part in. I think they've been an ‘eye-opener' for some and the feedback from sessions is usually very positive.
For my part, I really value the training opportunities I have been given by Making Waves. I believe that the best way to eliminate stigma and discrimination is through education, and healthcare providers very often need more education about mental health than ‘ordinary' members of the public, in my view! Only through education of the healthcare providers can we hope to bring about the much-needed changes in the provision of mental health treatment, and the attitudes of medical staff towards those suffering from emotional or mental distress."
"I would very definitely recommend training/teaching to anyone who feels that their own experience might contribute in any way towards improving attitudes amongst healthcare providers, towards those who suffer from mental or emotional illness. My strongest advice would be to tell your story, to contribute to improving attitudes and treatment standards by educating those whose task it is to treat it. You may be worried that they won't like what you have to say. I choose not to let this worry me, and to concentrate instead on the fact that by putting a ‘human' face, and a personal perspective on the subject, I am helping to bring about positive change."