Freedom of Mind Conference – Part 2

A few days ago I wrote Part 1 of this summary, here is what happened in the final half of the Freedom of Mind Conference and my thoughts around it.

The Keynote Speech from Rebecca Cross who is the Strategic Commissioning Manager for Children looked at how the Bristol CCG carried out inclusive research to transform childrens’ services. They took the approach of listening from the beginning of inviting children to be involved at all stages so that the service best reflected what they wanted. They’ve published all the information from the consultations here.

Amy Frounks then talked about being part of the NHS youth forum and her work in Somerset. She talked about the positive changes she has influenced and how she is writing a policy for the forum in Somerset at the moment because they don’t have one. She was positive about the influence a young service user can have and enthusiastic about being part of something far bigger than herself. She was an inspirational and positive young lady.

It was then time for discussion tables, we had three key discussions on the table surrounding mental health with the people already on our table and a lead professional who joined the table on a rotation. We started with Clare Short a psychiatrist from CAMHS, we discussed what support CAMHS should be offering to give the best support and should CAMHS only be crisis care. It was interesting to see what people considered a mental health crisis to be, there were definitely differing opinions here showing that the word Crisis isn’t wholly clear and its subject to interpretation. Clare clarified what the NHS define it as.

One of the young people who joined our table talked about how there needs to be an easier way for young people to transfer to a different psychiatrist/therapist if the one they have isn’t a good fit having had a really bad experience themselves having gone into the service in the early stages of transition which was completely ignored by the person they were referred to.

This discussion definitely came to an far too early, we all felt there was much more we wanted to discuss and there were lots of points we only just touched on!

The next discussion was with Katie from Freedom of Mind, we discussed what we liked about this festival and conference and what we would like to see next year. One of the things I mentioned was the transition for those in services between CAMHS and adult services would be good to see discussed next year as I don’t know anyone (myself included) who has had a smooth transition.

Finally Lydine Gold who is the Children’s Primary Mental Health Services Coordinator came to our table and we discussed how much mental health education teachers should be receiving. We had some people on our table who worked in school’s so had some interesting insight into what they are doing to ensure there is a good balance between mental health education and physical health. It was good to see some school’s at least are taking mental health seriously and weaving it into the fabric of every day life.

Bristol’s Mayor Marvin Rees then did a Keynote Speech, he talked about making Bristol a City which produces better resilience and one where challenges are faces the correct services are there. He believes that AWP (Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership) should be involved in all policy decisions from transport to green space to housing, because they all affect mental health. One of his manifesto promises was to invest in mental health of primary age children and he intends to stick to this.

He certainly came across as passionate about mental health, I hope this was genuine and some of this gets moved forward.

Next up there was a panel discussion with:

  • Marvin Rees
  • Rebecca Cross
  • Becky Pollard
  • Ella Marshall

First question was relating to the academic pressure students face and if there could be a move to looking after students wellbeing as a priority.

Ella Marshall said that teachers need training in looking after their own emotional wellbeing and how to manage wellbeing. Marvin Rees said that people need to make demands for change to the City Learning Partnership and the Health & Wellbeing Board. Becky Pollard said that we have the Health Schools Programme in Bristol which does take mental health into account.

The next question asked that we give more time to young people in crisis.

Rebecca Cross said that we should be doing more earlier so that there isn’t a crisis and so practitioners are freed up for those in crisis.

It was suggested that CAMHS are more flexible in the staff they recruit, not necessarily just people with MH degrees, but also people with skills and personalities which will mean they can relate and communicate with young people.

Rebecca Cross said that they now have the Partnership Outreach Team which works with the voluntary sector. Marvin Rees talked about working with places like boxing clubs because they are great ways to get people talking.

There was a lady who stood up and said that she’s working on the project to get primary school’s engaged with mental health. She said that currently 85% of Primary School’s in Bristol have now adopted the new PSHE curriculum which includes Mental Health, this includes the children learning Mindfulness from Year 1. She said her job is to convince the other 15%. I find this utterly positive news. For children of these young ages to be learning about mental health, and how to keep healthy is fantastic, and absolutely what they should be learning. And I absolutely implore the schools that haven’t got this in yet to get it as soon as possible.

Before the panel closed Grace asked each panel member for a pledge, I found this a really positive way to end things. A way to take things forward, she also asked each member of the conference to write a pledge of their own on a postcard so I will write my own pledge here for you to see.

  • Marvin Rees – To drive forward investing in mental health of primary age children and the Health & Wellbeing Board
  • Rebecca Cross – Online and Information for young people
  • Becky Pollard – Drive Health & Wellbeing Board towards Mental Health
  • Ella Marshall – Positivity and Keep Practicising Self Care

And what I wrote on my postcard: To keep writing and advocating for mental health and talk to anyone and everyone who will listen.

Finally Attik Dance did a performance of ‘This is My State Today’, this was a superb piece of contemporary dance which explored ideas around mental health. It was a great way for the conference to close.

I have to say this was a great, upbeat, conference. The energy was high throughout, people were positive and ideas were flowing throughout the day. The inclusion of young people from schools and youth groups was brilliant and they were full of ideas and examples of where things were both working and had gone wrong.

The thing which nobody forgot at any point is everybody has mental health, you don’t have to be mentally ill to need to be looking after your mental wellbeing and that really rung through when talking about schools and how to look after our children and young people in school. The common thread with almost all of my discussions was we need to do better in schools and make children aware of mental health much younger which is why I feel reassured and positive about this new PSHE lesson plan which has just gone into primary schools.

Mental Wellbeing starts with our children and the sooner we get our young people comfortable with looking after their mental wellbeing the less likely they will be to end up unwell later in life.

Freedom of Mind has been a wonderful idea which has turned into a wonderful reality, each person involved in the planning and execution of this festival should be immensely proud.

Freedom of Mind is crowdfunding for their future work so if you can spare a some cash to support these amazing young people head over to crowdfunder.


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