Talking about Race – from Montreal to London

Talking about race & racism can be difficult. For those of us working in prisons, immigration removal centres and forensic units we might be aware that rates of incarceration are higher than they should be for racialised people.

Black people make up 12% of the UK prison population but only 3% of black people reside in the UK (Lammy, 2017). Overrepresentation of black people is found in all psychiatric settings but is greatest in forensic units (McKenzie, 2004) where often the diagnosis received is psychosis.

Members of the Hearing Voices team travelled to snowy Montreal this November where we took part in the 11th World Hearing Voices Congress. Voices Unlocked piloted a workshop addressing the legacy of colonialism with global majority voice hearers.

We then went on to run a one-day training in Central London entitled ‘Opening Up Conversations – Let’s talk about Race’  thinking around how to engage with race in a meaningful way for the people we work with. We covered the structural realities that shape our awareness of racism, we unpacked what it means to be white, covert racism vs overt racism, colour-blindness and honoured how black, brown and white bodies all hold racialised trauma, especially in forensic settings.

Feedback for both the workshop and training was good and we hope to run the one-day course again in 2020.

For some of the topics raised, please follow the link to read a blog written by Jessica Pons for Mental Health Today.

A Fresh Approach to Mental Health with Change for Good

Last month we completed the training day ‘A Fresh Approach to Mental Health’ for Change for Good, a mentoring and befriending project for men leaving Wandsworth Prison.

6 users of the service and 7 volunteers attended and we enjoyed lively discussions, with participants remarking they learnt a lot of new information. Men who had been detained in HMP Wandsworth had the chance to share experiences of adversity and have these validated through a framework that accepts non-biomedical understandings of mental health difficulties.

One man fed back that the most helpful part of the day was ‘engaging in one’s truth’. At the end of the training day, people commented that the take-home message is that truly empathetic listening is vital for supporting people in distress.

We take Hearing Voices Facilitation Training to Manchester

In February we ran our 3-day Hearing Voices Facilitation course from Manchester for the first time. We had twenty trainees from HMP Wakefield, HMP Berwyn, HMP New Hall, St George Healthcare Group, HMP Garth, HMP Haverigg, HMP Hindley, HMP Wealstun & Arbury Court Forensic Hospital.

Staff from HMP Berwyn in Wales (which when fully operational will be the largest prison in Europe!) have been in touch to say they are progressing well with laying the foundation for their Hearing Voices Group launch.

Since the training, HMP Garth’s Beacon Unit, part of the National Offender Personality Disorder Strategy, have been in touch to organise further training.

We shall be developing the Voices Unlocked network across the North of England next year, using Manchester as our Northern base.

Philosophy of Mind Podcast

We’re really proud to share our ‘Philosophy of Mind’ podcast, which is based on a ‘Philosophy of Mind’ workshop series which Mind in Camden ran in October 2017. The group was open to everyone, ran once a week for six weeks, and focused on sharing and using philosophical tools and ideas to talk about mental health. Based on this, we have just launched a ‘Philosophy of Mind’ group in HMP Pentonville.

The first part of this podcast is an interview with Sophie Stammers, the creator and facilitator of the workshop series and a philosopher at the University of Birmingham – she tells us about her work and her experience of facilitating the group. The rest of the podcast (from 12.25 onwards) is a group discussion amongst several participants about their experiences of the group – what was most important, what the group felt like, and what has stayed with them… A huge thank you to Camden Community Radio who helped us produce this.

You can listen to it on various platforms:

  • The CCR channel on iTunes
  • canstream link on the CCR website
  • ‘Podcast’ apps on Apple smartphones and iPads – search ‘Camden Community Radio’, click on the podcast and it will show up as one of the most recent episodes

All of Sophie’s materials for the workshop series are online.