Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Members of the Southwark Service User and Carer Advisory Group (SUCAG) are people with lived experience of local adult mental health services. They help staff to improve services at South London and Maudsley.
Here SUCAG members talk about their experiences as part of the group and a series of films they made during the Covid-19 pandemic.
SUCAG members are people with lived experience of local adult mental health services. We bring a service user and carer perspective to discussions with staff about service improvements and developments. We also get involved in many other activities locally and across the Trust.
Blod explains: "I've been involved in a variety of things that have given me the confidence I never had before! I have helped develop and deliver training. Shared a snippet of my experiences at the induction of new staff. I've been on interview panels".
The benefits to the services are great, but, individually, we also see benefits as Graham describes: "Being a member of the group has helped me feel connected with others and I get a sense of giving back to mental health services which I have previously benefitted from."
In early 2020 we decided to produce some videos to explain and promote our work. After some face-to-face planning meetings, the Covid-19 lockdown happened. We were determined to continue and found ways of producing individual and unique reflections of our experience.
Each short film is different. We all used different creative styles, as Vanessa notes: "I have always believed in the arts to heal and inspire, yet since my mental health issues this has taken on a broader and more in-depth meaning. I hope our voices reach out to those both outside and in the mental health services, revealing the true souls behind the statistics."
Lockdown meant that we had to work in a different way and this had an impact on us and how the films turned out. Deirdre explains: "Work on the film started face to face so some shared themes began to take shape through group discussions. Then when lockdown occurred I was forced to think about my individual story, and it made me reflect on what the involvement projects meant to me. Things seemed to snowball as we moved online and we had an opportunity to acknowledge each other’s unique contribution".
Daniel, who was the driving force behind the film project, noted some unexpected benefits: "During these difficult COVID days the film project has been great for my wellbeing and enabled me to keep in contact with SUCAG, use my creative skills, and see and hear other SUCAG members’ experiences."
Angela also highlights a positive: "Being involved in this project during the lockdown, it was something to look forward to, to share our stories and to raise awareness in services or to any service user, the impact of our contribution towards the mental health services".
We hope that people will enjoy the finished films but more importantly we hope that they will encourage more people to get involved. Vicky says: "I hope the films help challenge the stigma around mental health and also inspire others to get involved in improving care for all".
Daniel sees the films has having some specific uses and hopes that they will "encourage other service users and carers to consider getting involved, and be a useful resource for staff thinking of involving service users and carers in projects".
Echoing that sentiment, Deirdre says: "I hope that the film encourages more people to get involved and to move on in their recovery. Being involved in SUCAG opened things up for me. There is no template for recovery – friendship, respect and joy provide a strong framework for holding our shared difficulties".
For more information about SUCAG, contact the Patient and Public Involvement Lead for Southwark at email@example.com.