Iceland: Be Open!

Article 4

by Rory Doody, September 2017

In May of this year I travelled to Iceland...

...I was in Reykjavik for a week working with a group of mental health service users and nurse academics drawn from six different countries. In short, the goal of this project was to work together to embed the voice of the people who have used our mental health services into nurse education and to do this together in a model, not insignificantly, called COMMUNE.

Having recently begun as an Area Lead for Mental Health Engagement in CHO 4 (Cork/Kerry), I was curious about how this was going to go. Personally, I still struggle wherever I am to make sense of the world I find myself in. There is continual inner conflict as I hear voices, focus on and worry about my current position, my family, community and society.  “Patient”, “client” “consumer”, “service user”, “survivor” and “expert by experience” are terms I struggle with and I always wonder if there is any chance of ever being just a person?

Lo and behold the group held many of the same fears I had. One of the key factors in this process is co-production. Not as a standard. Not as an ideal of perfection, but as a check on progress. It’s a mode of discussion, a way of doing work, a means of bringing us together and finding common ground. Engaging through a means of co-production was profound, once we understood what it meant in our context. The masks of “expertise” were dropped and common ground found.

We didn’t dismiss difference but embraced and explored it and found that it did more to bring us together than push us apart. Meaningful engagement came when we met each other as people first and went on to draw on our “expertise” when we needed it. The work was not any easier but it was better.

I have great hopes for the promise of co-production and engagement. However, putting hope and promise aside for a minute, I have been around long enough to understand that this will take work to build trust and to earn respect but, for meaningful engagement and COMMUNE to occur, it’s well worth this journey we are on together.

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