Saturday, June 23, 2007

Escape Velocity ? Can Mental Health User-Arts Lift Off ?

We have been aware of Mental Health Users Arts for some time and the way the UK Mental Health services have been showcasing User Arts here and there .....

The NHS services have seen them as a mixture of enabling Users to feel some value through showcasing itself and/or doing something to engage the world a bit more : to be within life and not to isolate like some Users feel they have to do ..

But from a User Perspective is showcasing all there is to art and life ? Its an exercise we think that wears out to be honest, although it does appear to have some promo-benefit for NHS Trusts, charities and others seen to be doing something a bit more colourful and "inclusive" ..

The question is with the dominant recovery model invading all services nowadays - is it going to work ? Or rather make Users work .. After all the recovery model is an invention of the DWP and other more "internally" functional middle class mental health theoreticians...UserWatch must still report mental health services are imbalanced because their concentration is not on patient-preferences of help but on a national political drive to get people back to work . Dependency is all too readily seen as a problem too .. Patient's in Birmingham And Solihull Mental Health Trust Services are not really in the driving seat at all .. It was never allowed .. Staff dominate the agenda and have a large amount of power ..

Some Users in Birmingham and wider afield are looking at the system with dismay because its too black and white for them and is not being shaped by them still - they are supposed to be shaped by it in fact .. So if User-Artists cannot effectively stop being mis-shaped by the system with its own agendas how can they reach escape velocity from it ? You see the the more authentic rocket fuel equation involves the paradox of remaining partly dependent on the system while needing growth or creative function they can take more autonomy over . This is harder than it appears in financially lean Trusts with an eye on selecting performance measures that make them look good and compliant to DOH targets .

The NHS system we think does not have the answer in fact paradoxically it may hamper Users by using them to promo how it good it is at creating "new services" based on corralls of Users that now exist still within the province of the NHS mental health colonies ..

The problem is the right equation of growth cannot be struck by the system if it is in charge and in fact the system itself may also have to accept that it cannot push all Users away from it but must remain as some partial help ..

The most serious problem though that hampers many Users is they need to be part of a different socially securing system that is not middle class blinded to their serious mind-difference and quality of being . The best way to manifest that is to alter the benefit system so its not threatening them but in fact remains as pro-active non punitive support - that for instance tops-up some benefits if activity for a day say is possible ... The recovery model is partly false because it is overgeneralised upon and neccesitates a more black and white anti state benefit approach . The system needs another half way approach of accepting attempts at growth by some Users whilst not reacting by undermining them and by expecting them to be more "normal" and stable than they can ever actually be..


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