The workshop started with a brief introduction by Zoë and Michael who talked about the themes emerging from a previous series of workshop they had run on relatedness. They listed three:
- Relationships can be either good or bad for mental health
- Distributed recovery, where recovery is seen as a feature of a system and not of an individual
- The contract between independence and dependance, and how the latter gets a bad press.
Further overlapping themes were pictured in the diagram below, delegates discussed them in groups after the more formal presentations:
The brief presentations were about recent empirical studies relevant to relationships in mental health. I loved the format, as one could get a great overview of the work psychologists and social scientists are doing at the moment, and appreciate both the different methodological approaches and the overlapping issues.
Jacqui Gabb (Open University) talked about romantic couples and what makes people have lasting and successful relationships: her evidence showed the importance of everyday small gestures and shared projects.
Charlotte Marriot (University of Birmingham) explored family dynamics, and found that special connections and secret languages between family members are highly appreciated by people with psychosis.
Anne Denov (Stockholm University) addressed the most controversial relationship in mental health, that between service user and healthcare professional, finding that people need to learn how to be care-smart and navigate services.
Donna Haskayne (Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust) focused on experiences of carers within forensic mental health services.
Zoë Boden (London South Bank University) examined the interviews and drawings of young people with psychosis focusing on their self-perceptions and the perceptions of their relationships (see picture below).
The workshop ended with a brief panel discussion in which I also participated, bringing the core issues of project PERFECT to bear on the question of what makes relationships good for mental health.
I thought the workshop was a great opportunity for a genuine exchange of ideas and perspectives, and I am sure that new projects will develop from collaborations among the people who attended.