This week, I attended the Northern version of the Digital Innovation in Mental Health event, which was organised by @victoriabetton and @charliey . It was a replication of an event in London that had occurred earlier in the year. Greedily, I attended both. I must admit I was curious to see whether the Leeds version had a discernible Northern flavour ( I’m still pondering on this).
The event was held at Leeds Art Gallery, which I think was an inspired choice as a creative space which brought together a very eclectic mix of people, united by a mutual curiosity about the huge potential of digital innovations in mental health.
The event itself was wonderfully facilitated by @mikechitty in an open space ‘unconference’ style, which meant that we as a group called the conversations that we wanted to have and we were then presented with the opportunity to gravitate towards whichever conversation intrigued us most. The only rule being ‘the law of two feet’ meaning that you simply moved onto the next conversation when you were ready.
The formula of the event made me think that if the NHS is serious about driving at people’s values and about creating a culture that truly values co- production as a process for change, then the formula of #DigitalMH13 needs to be replicated widely because the magic was in the diversity of perspectives shared between people with lived experience, health and social care professionals, students, IT developers (and refreshingly many who were open about occupying several of these roles at the same time).
So, I joined a conversation about online safety and I must admit that I was torn between this one and another that was about disruption. It was fascinating to hear many different views expressed about personal and professional responsibilities and boundaries around supporting people in distress within a digital space. Opinions were very much shaped by factors such as whether individuals were tweeting from individual versus corporate accounts and by factors relating to professional duty versus peer support.
I’ve been to so many traditional events where the experts have been stood on a podium preaching to largely passive participants ( who often have interesting perspectives to share themselves). As an antidote, it was a real pleasure to attend an event with an emphasis on democratic, sociable learning, not least because I think the most creative ideas always develop if you bring a group of people together with different views and perspectives.
What was also lovely about the disruptive formula about the event was that it got me thinking greatly about the potential of digital technology with regards to reducing isolation for some older people. Older People are not a demographic that immediately spring to mind for me when thinking about digital technology, probably because the stereotypical view is that many older people are switched off with regards to their use of digital technology.
Here’s where I now recognise that there needs to be a shift in mindset, because if the focus is about looking at a person; their interests and situation, then technology clearly has huge potential.
There were many great examples of this. However, I particularly liked a local pilot project by Age Concern, whereby tablet devices are being given to older people to reduce social isolation ( It’s also fair to say that there are lessons to be learnt here about this approach for other groups, who may find themselves isolated too) .
The Age Concern project also resonated with me personally because recently I’ve had a conversation about this with my rather glamorous Grandma who is in her 80’s. These days, she lives in sheltered housing and lacks independence because she suffers from quite severe osteoporosis. However, in her time, she travelled the world, living and working in Beverley Hills for many years. She’s a fascinating story teller, full of wisdom and interesting insights and I was struck when I was talking to her last, by the thought that if she can’t get out much, then why not bring the world to her by digital means. Not just to reduce her isolation, but also because she’s a wonderfully interesting person, full of wisdom and insights to share with the world. It gave me a glow today when my Dad told me that she’s now acquired a tablet device. I’m sure she’ll take to social networking very naturally. Watch this space. 😊
Carrying on the conversations
It was great talking to so many interesting people, but as with many of these events, the day is over before you know it. It was a relief then that there was so much interest in carrying on these conversations after the event, using lots of different spaces. I’ve connected with people since on Social Media and I’ve also arranged to visit a few people who I met on the day. There was also some interest in our local Health and Social Care networking forum #HSCLeeds, so I’m also hoping to see a few faces at our next event.
What I was struck by most of all then was the appetite for taking forward the digital agenda in mental health and I’m really looking forward to seeing how this progresses over coming months.
Thanks to @victoriabetton , @mikechitty and @charliey and also to all the people that I had a good chat with on the day:-)
*Art Work within this post is by Tom at Arts and Minds Leeds, who was an event eavesdropper on the day.