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Another month, another mental health meeting

V – so, another month, another mental health meeting?

A – Indeed.

V – so what happened?  Wasn’t there a presentation to be made to the Health and Wellbeing Board?

A – Yes.  A draft presentation was circulated several weeks ago and I replied within a few days.  But my brilliant response, which corrected so many problems, was pretty much ignored.  Instead, the day before the meeting, a revised version was sent round, but with little substantive difference from the original.

V – was there any discussion of the presentation at the meeting itself?

A – yes, I had specifically asked for it to be on the agenda.  But it was going through slide by slide rather than standing back asking more generally what ought to be there.  So there were a number of tweaks made.

V – so nothing much changed.

A – well actually, towards the end, one of the people, a mental health service user, said there should be something on stigma and I said why not expand that to include mental health literacy and that was agreed.  So in effect, a whole new work stream was added with little discussion or assessment, simply because nobody objected.

M – and no doubt you’re going to criticise them for including your idea?

A – well I was pleased it was included, but it doesn’t say much for the process, does it?

M – it’s easy to moan, but what would your solution be to make the process work better?

A – I don’t think I’ve got an ideal solution, but here are a few ideas.  As I said last time, some ‘meta-conversations’ would be helpful – working out what needs to be done and having a coherent plan for achieving it.  We knew we were going to have to produce that presentation so why weren’t we geared up to that from the start?

Also, some more expert facilitation of meetings: ensuring a focus on the key issues and making sure everyone has an opportunity to contribute.  That might include some activities other than general discussion – individually writing on post-its, smaller group work, that kind of thing.

Some more systematic decision making would also be helpful – maybe with a table of options, scored against various criteria (like cost, evidence of effectiveness, how it fits as part of a coherent strategy).  Having that in front of you helps keep as many factors in mind at once as possible.  There could also be some sort of vote, whether a show of hands, stickers on flip charts or maybe electronically.

It would also be good to do more work between meetings, electronically for instance.

M – I thought you said they ignored your response to the first draft presentation.

A – that’s true.  I suppose with all of this there’s the ideal of how to work together co-operatively and then there’s the the reality, all the interests, power and just plain quirks of relationships.

V – and how much of the problem in the last few months has been ‘technique’ and how much ‘interests’?

A – mainly the former.  But there’s a bit of the latter.  It’s hard to know what’s going on, but there’s a certain amount of wanting to keep control.  I don’t think they’ve got a particular solution they’re aiming for though.

V – and if your ideal process had been followed, do you think there would have been a much better solution?

A – Possibly.  Maybe it’s a long shot, but there could be a combination of initiatives that produces a more than proportionate result, that would be sustainable, with the ability to build it up over time.  It’s maybe just a small chance, but perhaps, with enough thought and effective joint working, we could have discovered it.

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