Launch of the UCL Unit for Stigma Research (UCLUS) Friday 16th February 2018 – Afternoon Session: Lived Experience and Stigma among Mental Health Professionals -Time for Greater Openness? | By Harriet Mills
By Laurie A Poole, on 7 March 2018
The session was chaired by Katrina Scior and Henry Clements, Director and Clinician Researcher with UCLUS respectively. In introducing the afternoon’s theme Katrina noted that having researched disability stigma for a number of years, their group has felt increasing discomfort about stigma colleagues with lived experience of mental health problems face and a general reluctance within the mental health professions to talk about our own vulnerabilities. Katrina asked the room “Is there a need for greater openness among the mental health workforce?”
Patrick Corrigan, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology and Lead Researcher with the US National Consortium on Stigma and Empowerment, joined us from the US via live feed as Keynote speaker. He called the stigma of mental health challenges fundamentally an issue of social injustice.
He spoke about his dual identity as a mental health professional and an individual with lived experience, and personal motivations to address stigma. The prominence of mental health related stigma visible in the media was highlighted, showing that it’s very much “alive and painful”. Stereotypes of being weak and dangerous continue to result in those affected by mental health challenges facing prejudice and discrimination. Randomised controlled trials show that direct contact with people experiencing mental health challenges is two to three times more effective in reducing stigma than education. He described the TLCs of addressing stigma: Targeted, Local, Credible, Continuous, Contact (Corrigan, 2011). He finished by calling on people to come out, and to feel proud about their lived experiences. Find out more at: www.hopprogram.org
Clare Gerada, Medical Director of the NHS Practitioner Health Programme, and Former Chair of the Council of the Royal College of GPs spoke about her work over the last decade, supporting doctors who experience mental health problems. She began by exploring the aetiology of personal and professional stigma within doctors with mental health problems, suggesting that the creation of the “medical self” dominates other self-identities and denies one’s own needs over the needs of patients. Institutional stigma also contributes to barriers to help seeking, resulting in doctors mostly only presenting once they are at a point of crisis.
Dr Gerada called for more accessible services to enable medical professionals to seek confidential help. She warned that disclosing experiences of mental illness remains a lot more difficult for doctors than disclosing physical health problems.. This was followed by a group discussion, with a lively debate about disclosure and implications for medical professionals.
Find out about the upcoming The International Practitioner Health Summit 2018: The Wounded Healer which will be partly chaired by Dr Gerada here: https://www.healthcareconferencesuk.co.uk/practitioner-health-summit
Dr Ahmed Hankir, NIHR Acad. Clinical Fellow in Psychiatry and Sal Anderson, Reader at the University of the Arts London, screened their film, ‘The Wounded Healer’. The film documents Dr Hankir’s experiences as a medical professional with lived experience: “Personal experience can make you more empathic and more insightful”.
“I see someone who is wounded, and he has little hope. He feels isolated. He wants to recover, but he doesn’t know how. He wants to realise his potential, but he can’t”. The film seeks to debunk the myth that one cannot be a compassionate caregiver if one has lived experience. “My experiences have made me more determined”… “If I can recover, people out there experiencing mental illness can recover and realise their dreams”. Find out more at: https://www.ahmedhankir.com/the-wounded-healer
Sue Baker OBE, Director of Time to Change, a partnership between Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, presented an overview of Time to Change’s far reaching work in campaigning to end mental health discrimination. She began by acknowledging the need for safety around disclosure decisions and said we need to break down the “them and us” divide, with many more “wounded healers” speaking out. She noted a need for long term sustained changes in actual behaviour alongside changes in attitudes, so that people feel empowered to take action against stigma.
Time to Change have been conducting a national evaluation through the the National Attitudes Tracker, analysed and reported by IoPPN, and have found that levels of reported discrimination are reducing, and public attitudes and intended behaviour towards people with mental health problems have improved. She spoke about the growing impact of the TimeToTalkDay campaign. Moving forwards, they are looking to target wider audiences with a particular focus on men and lower socio-economic groups, via media campaigns such as Be in your mate’s corner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3l8LpDitZvY
Sue closed in saying “This is the generation for change!”
Dr Katrina Scior and Dr Henry Clements, UCL, spoke about Honest Open Proud for Mental Health Professionals (HOP-MHP), a project currently being conducted by UCLUS. A key philosophy of the Honest Open Proud is challenging the “us and them” divide, while empowering people and putting them in the driving seat to make their own disclosure decisions. The HOP-MHP project was informed by two national surveys conducted by UCL in 2015, where 63% of qualified clinical psychologists and 67% of trainee clinical psychologists surveyed reported having experienced significant mental health problems. 11% said they had not spoken to anyone about their experiences, in some cases because they were in the past and no longer seemed relevant, but in others due to fear of being judged negatively or it impacting negatively on their career.
Katrina emphasised that colleagues deserve our compassion and support regardless whether their mental health challenges arise from work stress or other causes, something that is at danger of getting lost in the current discourse about workplace mental wellbeing and stress faced by the NHS workforce.
Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Former President of the British Psychological Society closed the afternoon session. He openly talked about his own lived experience as a driver of his decision to become a clinical psychologist and how he has mostly found disclosing helpful. Stigma he said, is still alive and well and remains a barrier to help seeking. He has been involved in a number of campaigns to tackle stigma including “Don’t bottle it up”, “Battle stigma” and “OnlyUs” . He closed the event with “There is no them, there is no us. Only us.”
Find out more at: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/31631-only-us-campaign