MHS Learning Network Aug 2017

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Where we've been: The Mental Health Service Learning Network in Sydney Australia

Late August our Senior Adviser Bronwyn Dunnachie and Business Analyst Leanne Eruera attended the Mental Health Services (The MHS conference) organised by the Mental Health Learning Network (MHSLN) in Australia. Run by a volunteer management committee, MHSLN promote positive attitudes to mental health while stimulating worthwhile debate that fosters idea exchange. This year’s conference welcomed a diverse mix of 800 delegates coming together to discuss “embracing change through innovation and lived experience”. This brought forward important discussions on making connections and recovery orientated practice, including the need to support personally defined success.

While the event had many talks and discussions that are more than worthy of report, we’d noted three of key interest to our New Zealand context.


‘Disruptive innovation’

Prof Mike Slade of MH Recovery and Social Inclusion from University of Nottingham discussed the intriguing concept of ‘disruptive innovation’. This argues the ‘disruptive transformations’ caused by our increased use of community-based service spaces has brought forward the need for ‘disruptive innovation’, to sustain and improve the effectiveness of their implementation.

One such suggested innovation which spoke to us was seeing lived experience as an asset to change, both in peer support worker and peer trained roles. This we know has supported much of what we’ve seen achieved by many of you.


‘Two Eyed Seeing’

Professor and Psychiatrist Lewis Mehl-Madrona from Vermont, spoke on building culturally appropriate mental health services, reflecting on his experience with Cherokee Indian communities in North America. Noting today’s dominant paradigm of epistemologically positivistic approaches to biomedical psychiatry, he discussed the model’s invariable dismissal of indigenous wisdom and potential short sightedness. As a rebuttal of overreliance on this epistemological basis, he provided an engaging presentation how indigenous approaches to psychology has something important to offer the modern world.

Two-eyed seeing is one such important offer. It is a new approach that can help practitioners embed an indigenous, humanistic understanding of ‘knowing’ that can help develop and share our understandings as individuals who are interdependent and interconnected within communities and wider world. This divergent epistemological approach to acknowledging truth by accepting a client’s version of reality, brings forward an enriched awareness of our interrelatedness via a collaborative interaction style of explanatory pluralism, supported by critical guiding principles covering all aspects of our lives.

Two eyed seeing is emerging as a way to integrate indigenous knowledge with other knowledge systems. More information can be found here:

Trauma Intersecting with the law

Dr Cathy Kezelman, Director of the Blue Knot foundation, spoke on the importance of trauma-informed services, and highlighted the need to expand this to the justice system particularly. Attachment and neuroscience insights don’t inform law education she noted, and expressed the real need of legal practitioners to apply a trauma lens when reflecting on individuals.

Such individual,s Kezelman noted, ought to be worked with rather than acted upon. She highlighted the stressful challenges of the legal system for those experiencing trauma impacts, and how these can affect the person’s ability to provide a coherent narrative, necessitating the need for opportunities to provide their testimony in a supportive environment cognisant of their experience. As such, trauma informed lawyers might be able to work with these people to protect them from further negative impacts.

Trauma informed care needs to be a focus for the legal community and wider services as a whole, as the majority of New Zealand’s maltreated children will experience the impacts of trauma. So we encourage you to review and share our recently launched trauma informed care when working with infants, children and adolescents training which is suitable for all audiences including all those working in the legal system.

If you or some of the networks you work with can benefit from understanding more on Trauma Informed Care, see our FREE modules


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