Community Mental Health Forums and the Unicorn Project
The Unicorn Project is a seed. It is a vision of a network of people involved
in Process Work and Mental Health in the UK, acting as a resource to support
the creation and facilitation of community mental health forums.
This seed has come from the incredible experiences we had facilitating
several community mental health forums in the UK, as well as numerous
seminars within Mental Health Hospitals for patients, psychiatric professionals,
carers and students.
The idea of the Unicorn Project is to further the mental
health of our communities. It aims to support awareness of mental health
as a community issue as well as further the mental health of individuals.
The Unicorn Project can help community groups, clinics, hospitals, and
councils to create and facilitate community mental health forums. The
Unicorn Project can provide:
||written guidelines for organizing a community (or organizational) forum
||consultation and active support for organizing community forums, in respect for unique regional concerns
||experienced facilitators and assistants
How is mental health a community issue?
||Mental health problems of individuals
are deeply influenced by attitudes in the community
||People with mental health diagnoses often feel marginalized
||Mental health services, clinics and hospitals treating
people with mental health problems cannot act in isolation from the
community at large. They need opportunities to interface with the
||People working in mental health services often feel
overworked and need opportunities to meet with one another to explore
and contribute their expertise and concern to improve the mental health
||People with mental health issues often carry concerns
about a wide range of social issues that belong to the community as
a whole. They need support to voice these concerns, and for their
concerns to be heard within the community. They also have ideas and
resources for improving mental health services in the community.
||The whole community suffers from isolation when some
of its members do not feel welcome. All of us in community feel isolated
when we do not feel we contribute actively towards community improvement
for those in need.
||Many different groups of people within our community,
such as youth, elderly, or the homeless, also have mental health needs
What is a Community
Mental Health Forum?
A Mental Health Forum gathers 40-200 people interested in mental health,
to engage in dynamic discussions and deepen their awareness about mental
health needs, welcoming all parts and processes usually marginalized by
society - in a facilitated interaction.
Who are the Participants?
Participants include people who use mental health services, mental health
professionals and service providers, family members, carers, administrators
and leaders in the field of mental health, representatives of community
organizations, such as police, housing, legal advocacy, and organizations
serving the youth, elderly, homeless, government representatives and other
interested community members.
Facilitators are experienced in forum facilitation using Process Work
methods to help the group focus on themes it wants to address, and support
all feelings, experiences and points of view to be heard. Polarized needs
and views are represented. 'Hot spots' are those points we all recognize
in which discussions often break down, conflict escalates, themes cycle,
and hopelessness results. At these 'hotspots' careful facilitation leads
into new territory, where there is increased levels of understanding,
care, community wisdom and energy released for practical realization of
Who and What is
The Unicorn Project?
The Unicorn Project is a network of people, from regions throughout the
UK, who are actively involved in the field of mental health and interested
in the contribution of Process Work to community dialogue and to individuals'
mental health. Each is committed to sharing information, resources, and
actively supporting the development of Process Work Community Mental health
Individual Mental Health
HISTORY OF MENTAL HEALTH SEMINARS AND FORUMS
Once, at Princess Royal Hospital, a patient, when asked what he was doing
at the hospital, replied that he was “looking for unicorns". Unicorns
had not been sited in quite some time. He was looking to reconnect to
a sense of magic, and truth in his life.
In 1987, Arlene and Jean-Claude Audergon began teaching Process Work in
the UK. Sheila McClelland determined that Process Work could make a significant
impact to her work with mental health patients in the Princess Royal hospital,
in Haywards Heath. Together with support from Dr. Alison Abrahams, Process
Work was introduced to the hospital in 1989. Over the following twelve
years, seminars took place, annually or twice annually. The seminars were
usually four days, and included people with mental health issues who were
in-patients at the hospital, some out-patients, as well as mental health
professionals, students and others interested. Everyone learned together
Process Work methods for understanding our own extreme experiences and
to work with the life experiences of people with acute and chronic mental
Participants came from all over the UK as well as from other countries
to study in this unique setting.. In Haywards Heath, there were Process
Work groups that met regularly, groups of people with mental health issues,
and groups of professionals to learn Process Work.
Through the years, we focused on learning to accurately perceive and support
each person's unique process to discover pathways forward within even
the most apparently disturbing situations such as clinical depression,
eating disorders, panic, mania, hearing voices, addictions, compulsions
and self -harm. Over the years, we also encountered the deep suffering,
the trauma and stories of abuse in so many people's lives. We also became
increasingly aware of how the stigma of society reinforces mental health
problems, and replays the sense of oppression in many people's lives.
Group interactions and intense dialogue between patients and professionals
became a part of the seminar design, with powerful learning and deepening
of understanding on all sides.
Community Mental Health Forums in Hayward Heath
In 2000, a Community Mental Health Forum was added to the agenda. In 2001,
we had a full day Community Mental Health Forum, with more than (75) participants.
These were organized by Dr. William Fulford and Alison Flynn at Princess
Community Mental Health Forum in Melton
After attending the forum in Haywards Heath, Lorraine Anning together
with Dr. Rosemary Shinkwin, determined to organize a similar forum and
seminar in Melton. The forum in Melton took place in March 2002, with
150 people, sponsored by the People's Forum, organized by Ms. Anning and
Forum for Norwich Mental Health Trust and Follow up
In September 2002, a Forum was held (organized by Mick Collins) for the
entire staff of the mental health Trust in Norwich. It took place with
145 staff members of the hospital. There was a follow up, as well, with
a small group of management, professionals and people using services.
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Us in the System, The System in Us