What is it that persuades us to an argument or case? Is it the data? Hard driven analytics that make overwhelming evidence? Perhaps it is the layers of research, statistics and supporting text? Maybe we all react differently according to what we need in a particular circumstance? Sometimes though, for me at least, it is the humanity of people and the stories they tell........
It wasn't quite a 'last minute' addition to the day but it was certainly at the back of the design process when my colleague Leigh Kendall reminded the design team that we needed to bring 'lived experience' to the forthcoming #ProjectA Mental Health Accelerated Design Event (ADE). How could we have a Mental Health ambulance response improvement event if we didn't create a platform to talk about living with mental ill health? It was a good challenge and one that we needed to bring into the day. I am so glad we did.
Three people stepped forward and volunteered to talk about their experiences of mental ill health and how it felt or feels to them. Leigh, Elle and David. They were the first part of the day the intention to 'ground' the participants and frame the day for everyone in terms of the work needed. They did more than ground the day, they made the day, laying the foundation for everything that subsequently followed.
Each talked eloquently for five to 10 minutes about their personal experiences of living with mental ill health, how it affected them day to day, those around them and the services/support they had received. It was an emotional and absorbing half hour - the power of their personal stories captivating the room.
Personally I don't think I've ever heard a more powerful introduction to any workshop or conference. It set the tone beautifully, reminding us why we were in the room - to collaborate to make a difference in the ambulance service response to mental ill health and crisis. The round of applause at the end of their session was loud, warm and heartfelt.
The personal experiences catalysed the room into action - an incredible amount of work was undertaken from looking at the potential of human based mental health prompt cards for frontline ambulance staff to critiquing the work of the national ambulance working group on mental health.
They also created an atmosphere that allowed people to have confidence to come forward without any prior prompting and talk about what they were doing in their service in relation to responding to calls that encompassed mental health needs.
The day concluded with personal commitments of how people would take forward what they had heard and spoken about on the day. From a #ProjectA perspective we will be keeping close to the services looking to implement mental health prompt cards and provide the national working group with a summary of the critique from the day (true co-creation by the service).
I personally left the day though with a profound sense of emotion from the 'power of stories' and their importance in being a catalyst for change. My gratitude again to our three speakers.