Podcast Episode: Recovery Conversation Cafes
Category: Mental health
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
INT: The Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, Kevin Stewart, officially launched a Recovery Conversation Café Toolkit for organisations and services. Developed by the Scottish Recovery Network, the toolkit provides a guide and resources to help people engage in meaningful discussions about what is important to them and their communities. We spoke to Ann Jones, Manager of the Mental Health Network at Greater Glasgow and Clyde about the Cafés; what they are, how they work, and what they achieve.
Michelle: Today we’re talking about Recovery Conversation Cafés. I’m joined by Ann Jones, the Manager at the Mental Health Network at Greater Glasgow and Clyde, today. So, welcome Ann. Before getting into the detail of the Cafés, tell me what the Network is and what it does.
Ann: Good morning, so the Mental Network at Greater Glasgow and Clyde, we’re a charity and we’re made up of members who either use or have an interest in the adult mental health services or their carers. And the main aim is to help people have a say in how they feel mental health services are delivered now and in the future.
Ann: So, we do a lot of engagement work with our members but it’s to improve their own mental health as we do a lot about their own wellbeing. As well as improve mental health services that are delivered by the NHS, we have a contract with the NHS so we feedback to NHS what our members are saying about adult services. I sit on like a lot of the strategic meetings within adult mental health as the service user and carer voice. So, for instance, there’s the new Mental Health 5-year Plan. So, when they’re bringing out new services or thinking of changing, what we do is we hold focus groups and then we produce a report and we feed that into the NHS. So, it allows people to have a voice and feel that they’re making a difference.
Michelle: And so how did you come across the idea of the Recovery Conversation Café then? And why did it interest you?
Ann: So, way back in 2017 we did a bit of partnership working with the Scottish Recovery Network and we had 3 engagement events: we brought about 90 people together. And we had a look at what people’s experiences were with regards to recovery; their own recovery and what they would like. And it was quite clear that the ideas of Conversation Cafés was something that everybody was interested in. So, we decided to run our own Conversation Café within the network for our members and they have been good. So, that started in 2018 and it continues … we’re still running it on a weekly basis.
Michelle: Okay. And what’s actually then involved in setting up a Recovery Conversation Café?
Ann: So, for ourselves what we did was, initially we worked in partnership with the Dennistoun Baptist Church. They provided a hall at the church and it was open to the whole of the community. And it basically is just a place where people can come and feel safe and meet with your peers. So, meeting with people who understand how you’re feeling, you can help one another. We facilitate it with a member of staff and we have topics each week which we look at to help people with their own wellbeing and enable them to add to their wellbeing toolkit.
Michelle: Okay. And tell me a little bit more about the topics. What are some of the topics that you might explore?
Ann: So, it can range. Just now we’re doing a lot of work around anxiety because things are changing due to Covid. People, as we all have, they’ve been isolating for such a long time so, the thought of going back out into the community can be quite difficult. So, we do a lot of work around anxiety to try and make people feel a bit more comfortable. We set tasks with one another each week. We look at what’s working well for somebody and they’ll maybe share that idea. But we look at different topics, hope for the future or hope for just day to day living. We look at exercise, we do some work around mindfulness but it really is dictated by the members themselves that come along to the Café.
Ann: A good part of the Café at the start, is more peer support. It’s people just checking in with one another. It can be used as a social event as well for those that are socially isolated, especially just now.
Michelle: And have you managed to run the Cafés over the last 18 months? Have they been something that’s been quite important to members?
Ann: Absolutely, absolutely. So, initially, obviously, before Covid, we held it in our office because the Baptist Church could no longer provide the facility. So, because it had been going so well, we didn’t want to stop that, so we turned one of our training rooms in the Network’s office into a Café area. So, they met every Monday, however we got hit with Covid. So, we do it online at the moment: we do it through the zoom platform. And we were lucky enough, we applied for funding, so we managed to get 25 tablets …
Ann: … for some of our members who don’t have access to IT we were able to give them tablets so that they could join us. So, that group is still continuing to meet every Monday afternoon online.
Michelle: Online at the moment.
Michelle: So, you haven’t actually been back to face to face?
Ann: So we’ve not gone back to face to face.
Michelle: The Network has been hugely supportive of people’s continuing relationships and continuing connection and giving some space I suppose to enter the world again a little bit more easily.
Ann: Yes and it’s been nice to see, Michelle, it’s been really nice to see the support from the members giving to one another. So, although they’re meeting with ourselves facilitating these groups, they are also contacting each other throughout the week, out with the Network. And initially the Network would run 3 face to face groups a week but since Covid, we’re now running 6 or 7 online groups a week with our members attending and we have been doing that since last year. So, people are supporting one another which is lovely to see
Michelle: Okay, yeah. And tell me, how are the conversations different from any other conversations that people might have? I think you’ll have probably been using the Engagement Toolkit that the Minister launched and that the Scottish Recovery Network have been involved in. So, does that make the conversations quite structured or quite different to ordinary conversations or how does that work?
Ann: I suppose with regards ourself, our Conversation Cafés are all Recovery Conversation Cafés. So, everybody’s coming with their own lived experience of mental health and the fact that everybody has their own experience they’re willing to share and will work with each other. And it’s a safe environment so there’s no stigma attached whereby maybe if you were at a different type of Café, there would be people maybe with mental health difficulties or people who are going for another reason. And there’s still that big stigma in the outside world around mental health whereas we don’t have that at the Café.
Michelle: Sure. And have you been using the Engagement Toolkit?
Ann: We were lucky enough to be invited to the launch of the Toolkit. So, we have just started using the Toolkit. I suppose for us it was just to … we’re using it to refresh the Café because we’ve been so used to doing it our way so it’s been a refresher for us and new ideas, yes.
Michelle: Okay. And how is it helping, what is it helping you to do as part of the conversations?
Ann: Well, we’ve used some of the materials whereby we’ve given it out to members. So, they’ve been able to see it as well and get involved and give us feedback which has all been very positive. And it gives us a little bit of structure to the Café as well because sometimes it can be quite difficult online to keep the structure whereas it’s much easier, you know, on a face to face. So, it’s given us that little bit of structure and just the refocus again because sometimes we can get quite comfortable in what we’re doing.
Michelle: And Ann, what do you think the actual conversations achieve?
Ann: I think it gives a voice to people with lived experience that sometimes nobody listens to. I think it also makes them feel valued that they can help one another and it makes them feel, it gives them self-worth again and makes them feel part of the community.
Michelle: Ann, is this just something that the Mental Health Network in Greater and Glasgow and Clyde is doing or is this something that other networks are also adopting?
Ann: There’s lots of good work out in the community. So, there are lots of groups that are doing similar things that maybe just don’t call it a Conversation Café. But there is a lot of good work getting done in the third sector or with small local groups looking out for one another and they’ve just maybe not got the publicity there to share their work. There is definitely a lot of work going on in the community.
Michelle: Okay. You talked about there being a lot of stigma still around mental health, and we all have mental health, so this network is bringing together people with lived experience but I guess all of us in a way have lived experience.
Michelle: So, would you be recommending this type of Conversation Café in other settings?
Ann: Yes, absolutely. Because we all have mental health and sometimes it’s good and other times it’s not so good and we all need a bit of support. And I think especially during Covid, there’s been an impact on everybody and it is good to talk. And it is good just sometimes if you’re waking up and you’re just not feeling 100% and you don’t know why and if people start to worry, just talking to somebody else who maybe understands or can give you hints and tips. And one of the things that I’ve learned for myself and it’s speaking to other members during Covid, is always to stick to a routine. So, I’ve always stuck to my routine, even though I’m working from home or things are different. I’ve always got up at my normal time and just carried on the way I would normally have done at work; I’ve kept my routine.
Michelle: Yeah, I think routine has been important for all of us throughout …
Michelle: …. The pandemic.
Michelle: Is it possible for anybody to get involved in these recovery conversations, Ann?
Ann: Absolutely, absolutely. So, if anybody would like to find out more information regarding Conversation Cafés, if they contact myself at the Mental Health Network and my email address is: email@example.com
Michelle: Great, and is there a website for people if they’d like to find out further information about the network?
Ann: Yes, there absolutely is. If you just go into Google and key in Mental Health Network, Greater Glasgow will come up.
Ann: We’re based in the East End of Glasgow.
Michelle: Fantastic. Okay. Well Ann, thank you so much for speaking to me about the Recovery Conversation Café today.
Ann: Thank you for inviting us along.
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