Working in PartnershipExperts by training (workers and academics etc) and people who are experts by experience are encouraged to work together, this means that national representatives from the hearing voices initiatives around the world are encouraged to attend our annual working meetings as “pairs” or “groups”. The expectation is that these pairings/groups are ongoing long-term working relationships (as in working together as equals) that continue outside of the meetings and that couple/group prepare their presentations together. The advantage of this arrangement is that the perspectives both the expert by experience and expert by training are included in all discussions and thereby feed into the decision making processes of the organisation.
Bridging the personal and professionalWe believe that we do not need to maintain a worker/psychiatric survivor divide. This has been a very significant contribution to the success of intervoice as an organisation and sets it apart from many other agencies and services working on mental health issues. The process is simple and involved the members (experts of experience and experts by training) committing themselves to bridging the worker/psychiatric survivor divide and developing real relationships with each other, as a result long term friendships have developed. This is more easily accomplished than might be imagined, having common cause and placing a stress of equal value of everyone’s participation tends to breakdown the worker/psychiatric survivor user divide and gives space for a very different way of working and being together.
I’ve asked Ron Coleman, who is a very well known voice hearer and mental health activist for a copy of the constitution of Intervoice and he’s said he’ll pass it on. I’m expecting that to be great reading and good inspiration. There’s quite a few steps in this process yet but I’m excited to have started.
There’s a few reasons I think that becoming incorporated is a good idea. So far everything we’ve done has been as an unofficial community group, and it has been great to have that relaxed environment to discuss ideas and develop resources in. I’m not keen on the corporate, bureaucratic world of paperwork and meetings and in this sentiment I am not alone. Formalising our group does mean having to engage with that world, hopefully while maintaining the informal, friendly and efficient characteristics of a grass-roots group! Becoming an entity will help to raise awareness and network with other organisations, to seek funding to get new projects off the ground, and to maintain our resources and not let valuable work get lost and left behind in busy lives.
I also like the group nature of the process, working together as a board, creating partnerships to work on specific projects etc. This has been the process for the DI since inception. We gave our first talk, Cary and myself, at Mifsa in late 2010. I was so terrified I shook through the whole talk and took about three days to come down off the massive dissociative aftershock. I could not have done this alone. The stigma, discrimination, anxiety, freak factor, and lack of respect for the value of lived experience would simply have been too much. The courage to go forwards has come from groups, and the impetus to persist has come from getting phone calls from distressed, isolated people who’ve been told dissociation doesn’t exist, or nothing will reduce it, from having people weep when they attend Bridges and for the first time meet with other people who have the same challenges, from having people describe these resources as life saving and also desperately insufficient to meet the needs out there. Groups of people are essential to the functioning of the DI and the resources we’ve developed. This is about far more than one person’s ideas or career goals, and it needs to go beyond one person to have any hope of being able to address the scale of the need that is out there.