A project that helps people with mental health conditions’ voices get heard hopes it can make Warwickshire’s provision amongst the best in the country.
Warwickshire Co-Production Service gives people with mental health conditions the opportunity to shape the services they access, from counselling to psychiatry. Holding regular forums and workshops, the programme puts people’s experience and opinions at the heart of service improvement.
The Warwick-based scheme also helps people with mental health conditions to gain experience and confidence that can help them integrate back into their communities and find work.
From this summer, the project will additionally be seeking the opinions of people who access services on how perinatal mental health, suicide prevention and bereavement and dual diagnosis services can be improved.
Liz Pfute, mental health co-production team leader, said: “Our service gives a platform to people who otherwise would not have their voices heard.
“Anyone who has accessed mental health services, from spending time as a hospital in-patient to booking a session with a counsellor or therapist, is invited to give feedback on the experience could be improved.
“Co-production means redesigning services hand-in-hand with the people who use them. It is an extremely valuable idea as it empowers people and helps them to feel that they have some control over their recovery and the kind of support they receive. By involving people we support in shaping provision we want Warwickshire to build the best mental health services in the country”
Service volunteer Liam Bowden, 29, from Nuneaton, said: “I went from working in a gym to being unable to hold down a job when depression got on top of me.
“I’ve had both good and bad experiences of mental health services, but getting involved with this project has been the best thing I’ve ever done.
“I’ve gone from being the kind of person who would hide at the back hoping no one would notice me, to sitting on panels interviewing psychiatrists, writing newsletters and chairing meetings.
“It is a very powerful thing when you are asked your opinion – and then listened to.”
Last year, Liam was able to meet one of his heroes when he was invited to a conference to mark 35 years of the charity Making Space.
He said: “I’ve watched Coronation Street since I was a child and I couldn’t believe it when I walked into the room and Beverly Callard was there.
“At first I thought she was just invited to add a touch of glamour because she was a celebrity, but when I heard her speak about her own mental health struggles, I thought, ‘you’re one of us’.
“I would say to anyone who had had problems with their mental health that they need to get involved, speak up and be the change.”