Walk the Line

Sometimes working in mental health forces you to walk a very thin line between the personal and the political.


The advantage of being of a therapeutic persuasion is that most of us operate in the real world far from the neurolinguistic programming and mis-information that dominates in the debates about the NHS.


Plenty of scope in the current political climate to say something that has actual meaning.


It means that health workers can often trump politicians by speaking about things that are true – such as the real costs of care and what we risk if we walk away from the psychic realities of living with economic decline.


The capacity to speak authentically is still high currency to human beings, and many politically active clinicians do well in the media for that reason. You could argue that the growing political engagement of people working in mental health has become essential to protecting patient care.


But it also presents us with a dilemma about when our capacity to articulate truths which are hard to hear becomes a belief in magic wands, superheroes and our own power to change things. Cure the patient becomes cure the NHS and then cure the world.


To temper these ambitions, most people who work in mental health will have also gone through the process of being a patient, generally a requirement for completing training in the talking therapies.


Humbling enough to be both patient and therapist, but particularly hard on the old ego as our ambitions to cure the whole planet are tackled head on. Omnipotence, certainty and absolute clarity beaten up in the toilets of the mind leaving you a bigger person but probably not very good at glossing over the truth and maintaining your enthusiasm for policy.


However, it might be that this humility allows us to walk an important line in politics. A line where we are able to say things that are true but also to listen to other people. To allow ourselves to take a position but be influenced by what the people around us have to say. To question the political facts, including our own.


To talk about the future of mental health, as patients and clinicians.



Working in Mental Health: Money, conditions and support
On the 25th February there will be an event at the Tavistock Clinic to talk about working life in mental health services. This will be a conversation with Clare Gerada, Practitioner Health Programme, and Elizabeth Cotton from Surviving Work about money, jobs and working life in mental health. They will talk about their experiences of campaigning through professional bodies, unions, and supporting health workers on the frontline. They will also introduce the Surviving Work Survey – an initiative to map jobs, money and precarious work in mental health. The question they will open up for discussion is how can we position ourselves to talk and think about working in mental health and organise ourselves to improve working conditions in our sector?


To book tickets click here.



Survival Courses
Our next Survival Courses for people working on the frontline of health and social care will take place at Health Education England/Practitioner Health Programme on the 28th January and at the Tavistock Clinic starting in February 2016, both in London.
It’s a short course to help you quickly establish team working and tackle immediate workplace problems. Core topics include:

  • understanding what stops functioning teams in health and social care settings
  • building teams and spaces where people are able to speak up
  • building relationships with the people around us
  • building our capacities to survive work


To book a place on the Survival Course for the Practitioner Health Programme click here


To book a place on our next Survival Course at the Tavistock Clinic click here.

None of this will make you richer or thinner but it will help you to survive work.

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