Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mental Health in Context at The Women’s Organisation | 54 St James Street


Yesterday evening the University of Liverpool hosted a Mental Health in Context launch at The Women’s Organisation.

‘Mental Health in Context brings together experts in the University of Liverpool from various fields of psychology and culture to consider mental health difficulties within the broader context of the social, the cultural and the personal realms in order to improve the understanding and treatment of those difficulties in the modern world.’

The event was introduced by the new Vice Chancellor (and first female VC) of Liverpool University; Janet Beer who noted that it was apt for her first public engagement to be at The Women’s Organisation, and said ‘The importance of the arts in achieving well-being cannot be overlooked’ before quoting the guest of honour; Jeanette Winterson, and reminding the audience; ‘Don’t live a half-life.’

To launch this programme Professor Rhiannon Corcoran highlighted four main projects that they are working on with their many partners and organisations.

The first being ‘First Steps’ – Wirral Child Health and Development Study, a large piece of research working with over 1200 Wirral families who became parents during 2007 and 2008 to make new scientific discoveries about important influences on children’s mental health and their development over time.

Then there was the ‘Improving Mental Health Collaboration in Applied Health Research and Care’. This project is in association with the National Institute for Health Research. This project aims ‘To understand and reduce the burden of mental ill health and wellbeing by delivering effective community based interventions involving the NHS, local authorities and the third sector.’

Next was ‘The Prosocial Place Programme’, a statistic flashed up on the projector screen letting the audience know that ‘85% of people stated that the qualities of public spaces has a direct impact upon their lives and the way they feel.’ This programme will work to look at new ways of understanding urban living, neighbourhood and community design, development and management. To ensure that it engages with well-being.

And lastly was a project from The Reader Organisation (The International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing) and Calderstones Mansion. Their shared ‘Read-Aloud Programme’ works to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to experience ‘the pleasure and power of great literature’ they do this through reading groups, courses, events and festivals.

Jeanette Winterson, a writer, broadcaster and activist from Lancashire, and author of the best-selling novels ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ and ‘Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal’ (The last title a quote from her Mother, Mrs Winterson, when she revealed she was in love with a woman, and that is what made her happy), then took the stage, standing on a chair to elevate herself so the audience could see her properly.

Jeanette gave an impassioned speech and read from her novel. At the crux of her speech was the fact that for some ‘Language itself has become a luxury’ and it’s important to help others who cannot always convey with words, their emotions. She said ‘A tough life, needs a tough language’ and for her, that came from poetry.

And finally, to close the evening before networking could commence, was an incredible speaker who ‘exemplifies the nature of the project and the evening’, Dr Eleanor Longden. ‘She is someone who both has had profound personal experiences of mental difficulties and is also a researcher of Mental Health in Context at the University of Liverpool.’
Eleanor spoke about her experiences with Mental Health and the journey she has gone on from first hearing voices when she began University. Between 4 and 10% of the population hear voices and fewer than half of these people ever see a psychiatrist, according to research by the Hearing Voices Network. Eleanor spoke about learning to deal with the voices and harness them into allies. Her TED Talk; ‘The Voices in My Head’ – has been viewed over 2 million times.

 Yesterday evening’s Mental Health in Context event was a huge success with a full and engaged audience, and The Women’s Organisation and 54 St James Street were happy to host the University of Liverpool for this evening.


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