“When I started working in mental health it was by accident, and I felt I knew nothing.”
This crystal owl is nothing special to look at – it is one of perhaps millions produced as small ornaments, as gifts. It was given to me as a present – a thank you for support and advice to help sort out a claim for benefits. It was one of many small gifts over the years – chocolates, cards, flowers – the only surviving one.
When I started working in mental health it was by accident, and I felt I knew nothing. I was on an inpatient unit surrounded by need and often distress and I didn’t have a clue. I guessed that listening, showing respect and building trust would be a good start and as it turned out it was and it worked. I learned a lot from the people who knew the most and we built mutual respect, which led to not only successful access to legal entitlements but also a sharing of knowledge. I learnt about the huge impact of the small stuff, the seemingly easy to do stuff but within a big system, it was the stuff that didn’t always happen – listening, being heard, consistency, trust.
When I came to HARP – it was what I found – an insistence that we didn’t rush people through and there were opportunities to move at people’s pace. This owl to me represents that mutual appreciation – the power of acknowledgement, which was as important for me as it was to the people I was working with.