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  • Writer's pictureMike Douglas

The Mind Federation Conference

Recently I attended the Mind Federation Conference 2023, where I heard about the amazing things happening across the network of local Minds, Mind Retail and the national charity Mind.

The two day conference had a mixture of keynote presentations, panel discussions, workshops and meet the team sessions. Each provided something slightly different in terms of information or ways to interact.

This was my 4th time attending the Conference, having attended one in person in 2019 and the following three online. Each year has felt at least slightly different with new topics, speakers or online platforms. In 2021 and 2022 I also had the privilege of being involved in some of the planning as a local Mind representative and as a member of the network engagement group. So yes, I think a lot of this Conference.

The arrival of baby Henry in the summer meant I couldn’t be involved in the planning this year, meaning I knew a lot less about the sessions and structure before the day. My experience as a new parent also fed into how I received and engaged with some of the discussions. Part of that being the use of my awesome MS Teams avatar. Another part being hearing and resonating with some of the shared lived experiences, particularly that of Anna Williamson.

There are moments when we talk about services, support and our fight for more or better provision when I (don’t agree with, but) understand how under funding or lack of support has happened. However, when it’s about child birth, something that all of us have been involved in, even if only as a baby being born, I just can’t understand how mental health support services are not both available and encouraged for all people having a baby. This quite literally affects everyone. Yet again and again I’m hearing and have experienced a lack of support for new dads/ mums/ caregivers. I know from our birth experience I feel like I really needed and would have benefited from some extra support, so I very much resonated with some of the insights shared by Anna.

During the Conference the wonderful Tiwa Ayeni shared her experience of crisis and it really reminded me of some of my own crisis moments; and the journey since. Those moments, they more than seem, they are all encompassing. They are everything and nothing somehow at the same time.

It’s, for me at least, important not to spend too long in those reflections. But, it is important to reflect; both for myself on my own journey, and also for us as activists/ campaigners/ supporters to remember why. Why we are doing this. Which is to better support people in crisis, to help prevent people getting to crisis and to help people start their lives again.

The shared insights, experiences and openness of Anna and Tiwa really added to my Conference experience, allowing me to both hear their experiences and reflect on my own. I believe that's the sign of an awesome speaker.

I think that’s one of the things I like most about Conference; it provides that space. A space to get updates and information sure, but also a safe space to pause and reflect on why we do this and to learn about experiences that may differ from our own or even prompt reflection.

Sharing lived experiences is so valuable, insightful, informative and supportive. But it’s important that it’s done in safe spaces and environments; both for the speaker/ sharer and for those listening. Conversations are awesome, they can happen anywhere and with anyone. However, the impact of that conversation or sharing is sometimes overlooked or not recognised. These are often powerful and emotive stories, and told to audiences with their own lived experiences. So it goes without saying that creating safe spaces to share isn’t always easy simple or quick. It can require time, patience, thought and compassion. That’s something I believe was excellently shown at Conference this year (and in the last couple of years).

A huge thank you to everyone involved in hosting this year’s Mind Federation Conference. I for one am very excited about what is to come in 2024.

Find out about your local Mind, their services and support here.

Find out more about the national charity here.


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