Back in September, People’s Voice Media came together with representatives from Creative Minds and Huddersfield University to discuss all things #softandfluffy. So far the project has collaborated with a range of wellbeing initiatives in different locations and communities from across Kirlees, Wakefield and Stockport. The main aim of #softandfluffy has been to utilise Community Reporting, an alternative approach to evaluation, to gather stories of people’s lived experience with mental health services in order to bring about positive change to the current system.
A team of Community Reporters have worked with wellbeing initiatives, such as Creative Minds, The Artworks, The Good Mood League, The Live Arts Cafe, Photovoice, Q Lab, Nice Guidance, to build up a body of research consisting of digital stories exploring the experiences of people engaged in creative activities delivered by each of the organisations.
The findings of the project have helped identify issues and communicate solutions to current approaches to mental health services, based on the knowledge of the people who experience it first hand. Key themes include, the flaws of the medical approach to mental health services, the concept of health encompassing mental and emotional wellbeing as well as physical health and the benefits of adapting ‘traditional’ approaches to mental health services offered by the NHS to reflect this more holistic approach. Utilising Community Reporting has helped to highlight these factors and communicate the complexities of different experiences without over-complication. The experience of Community Reporting also provides those engaged with the opportunity to open up and feel heard on an individual level, provide support to peers and in terms of the stories exploring creativity, change people’s preconceived ideas and misconceptions – It’s not just about collecting stories.
With regards to follow up events and future coordination, the team are currently working on producing a film and project report collating the findings, both of which will reflect the need for commissioners to engage and hear people’s stories. A ‘Conversations for Change’ event has taken place, which invited practitioners, team leaders and commissioners from within mental health services to listen to the research and the voices of the people they provide care and support for, in the hopes to influence a change in policy and structure. The event set out to be a conversation starter, to drive change and desire for improvement, challenging perceptions that what is thought of as #softandfluffy, is not quite so ‘soft and fluffy’ and is creating real positive changes in those that need it most.