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  • Writer's picturethe SHOOPERY

citrus got real!

Last week we ventured into the unknown and tried something new.

We got alongside facilitators at the IAF England and Wales Annual Conference.

Since I have come home it has felt a little overwhelming because so much happened, that I almost can’t grasp hold of anything to do something with it. So here are some random musings of where I am at now, and Pip and I will continue to try and make sense of it over the coming weeks. What we hope for the most is that we keep the conversations going and maybe play alongside peeps again soon.

Worlds colliding and worlds connecting…

Part of why THE SHOOPERY has been founded is to talk about when people feel on the outside looking in, and actually when we have these conversations we can find out that we are not so far apart.

  • At this conference people were online and in the room. Conversations about how has this hybrid conference worked will continue for a long time to come.

  • People were members of the IAF and catching up with people they have known, worked with or been supported by for years- the friendship in the room was so evident. And then there were new people, who knew less about the IAF and maybe came to connect, or to try something out (like us), or maybe they didn’t know why they were there.

  • And then there were different styles of how people could join in- different ways people could participate that opened up a variety of conversations.

It turns out that this is something people on the leadership team were deliberately experimenting with to diversify and broaden what might normally happen.

And that was actually one of my favourite conversations over the whole weekend- that to do things differently it might feel uncomfortable, we might not know what is going to happen, but let’s do it and see what happens. So many people in the room working to do this. To go alongside this you need a whole load of warmth, trust and openness - people actually saying ‘I don’t know if I have got this right’, ‘I’m interested tell me more’, ‘I didn’t feel great when this happened’, ‘shall we make space for this conversation’, ‘what part do I play in making things change’, ‘ok I have an idea’.

In terms of our work and wanting to work alongside universities and colleges to support students struggling with their mental health, we know it feels hopeless on both sides- people working in student welfare have told us that the current demands on both capacity and resources is overwhelming- not to mention the personal stress, frustration and sadness felt doing a job which they love but is painful. Students have shared stories of waiting, coping and hiding as anxiety and depression becomes all consuming and life feels on hold.

How do we all make more space for more of these conversations where worlds collide and connect? So that we can all start recognising that there is more than one approach to mental health support and they all hold value and can make a difference. Part of making this happen is by doing what the people organising this conference did- looking for newness and challenge and bringing in the unknown.

One conversation with Paul Brand, Lucy Hawthorne & Anne (Sorry Anne- brain freeze) is ringing in my ears. We talked about the perception and actions of some people who currently have power of decision making, or the way things are done know things need to change but it is too hard and often perceived as dangerous- the safest/ easiest choice would be to keep doing what we have always done.

I felt like we got a whole host of back up to keep making ‘small bold actions’ (Alex Barker) and to keep being more pirate to challenge the status quo- and what was brilliant to see and hear at the conference was people fascinated with lemons and going away to say they were going to find their SHOOP- we can make change by doing things differently.

And one last thing before I stop waffling- Ray Douglas’s wise words have also stuck- he said it is about changing culture… paying more attention to what we can influence and not our concerns.

- Catherine

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