Here are some of the highlights of the session:
• When asked “Rather than work out how to be non-patronising ,why don’t we highlight what we want to achieve when engaging with women who have mental health issues instead?”.. the fear seemed to leave. Together we suggested bringing a release; giving a voice; empowering and supporting .
• By seeing ‘women’s well-being’ as the larger category we introduce an inclusiveness straight away. We are all women with mental health, sometimes good sometimes not so good, sometimes extremely vulnerable but fundamentally we are all the same.
• There may be boundaries when groups of people come together to work but they can be positive ones – we are artists and we bring what we know, what we are comfortable with and what we want and need collaboration with. If there are to be any separate roles taken in the activities they are simply that we are providing the workshop and that the women we are approaching are there to participate, to share our vision and without them nothing could happen. Maybe it helps to see that our intervention is creative not therapeutic.
• We must bring our passions, skills, interests and creativity to share, not our pity, reticence, careful treading or presumptions which might limit outcomes. Indeed our job is to create and share and we have no power ultimately over what the results may be.
• If there are concerns about elements of therapy, protection or discretion that is an area for partnership with health professionals with whom we should have opportunity to liaise prior to engagement.
• Some participants to the discussion shared the following helpful insights and suggestions:
• Women in addiction therapy find it difficult to have a voice especially when they are in a mixed gender group: a reminder than sometimes all women activities do serve women better.
• The best therapy is interaction with other people.
• In aiming to give women a voice and empower them to express themselves, suggesting joining in a communal, social or political voice can serve as a less vulnerable activity– e.g.what would you want to say to Teresa May if you could say anything?! Personal stories and experiences might emerge from this but there is no pressure to start there.
In itself the concern to show gentleness is not wrong but ironically it may be the area in which the possibility of patronising someone actually lies! To embrace a project as an artist with passion, grateful for the opportunity to be doing what one loves and grateful for the people who are sharing in that whoever they are will carry us through and may lead to wonderful things!
Thank you to all the wonderful women who indulged me in these interesting discussions and helped me understand a little more about the nature of social engagement!