Fiona talks about her experience of co-facilitating a four-day self-management workshop as part of a pilot based at our Southwark Wellbeing Hub.

“When we are unwell, our first instinct is usually to go to the doctor. It’s easy to forget that there are things we can do ourselves to improve our wellbeing and keep ourselves well, and this can be particularly true of our mental health. This is what self-management is all about: it’s about taking control of your life. Health services tend to be much more focused on just treatments.

We all have skills that are unique to us but sometimes we need to be reminded that they are there. We are all different, and at a different stage in our journey to recovery. For some, it may take a long time to realise they have strengths they can draw on to help themselves.

Often it’s about starting with baby steps and breaking a much bigger goal down into manageable tasks. I always try to reflect on what might be impacting on my own wellbeing at any given moment. For example, if I’ve not been sleeping well, I’ll try to understand why that is and what practical things I can do to tackle it.

We all have skills that are unique to us

Delivering the self-management workshop has made me realise how diverse people’s needs are. One person may be on medication while another might be dealing with difficult relationships. Some people are working towards goals that most people would take for granted, while others are working towards something that would be challenging for anyone. There are also all sorts of things going on in people’s lives or minds that hold them back.

I found it hugely empowering to see people progress, to hear them say they had put the tools we explored into practice and seen positive results.

I believe self-management can be a crucial link in someone’s recovery. It’s not about replacing professional support or stopping medication. At the same time, it’s not about telling people they have to solve everything themselves. And it isn’t a magic cure! It just makes very good sense for people to draw on their own skills and resources to improve their wellbeing. And at a time when support can be very hard to come by, it’s more important than ever.

Self-management approaches have been used for physical health for many years and are well-established for some physical conditions. The Mental Health Foundation saw the potential for it in mental health, but realised that the approach would need to be adapted to fit the specific challenges people face when they are mentally unwell. We spent a lot of time with the Mental Health Foundation looking at the materials and tools they have developed and adapting them for our needs. They have been incredibly supportive: they also gave us facilitation training, and followed up with us once we had delivered the four-day workshop. I really felt part of developing the workshop as well as delivering it.

I found it hugely empowering to see people progress

My role involved planning the session each day, facilitating group work, making people feel comfortable and welcome, getting people to write down their aims and introducing the various tools that are part of self-management. There was lots of fruitful discussion and a lot of pinning of ideas around the room on post-it notes! We looked at things like barriers and solutions, and dealing with negativity.

The group that took part in the workshop took a while to gel, but when it did, it was so good to see. I recently bumped into one of the participants and he let me know the group is still meeting and supporting each other, which was so heart-warming to hear.

I had never done anything like this before. It was very nerve racking standing up in front of a group of ten people, but delivering the workshop has reminded me of the things I can do to keep myself well. I’ve learnt a whole new set of skills, and I feel more equipped to manage in future. I also felt very valued and empowered that I had been entrusted with the task of sharing my own experiences to help a group of people explore their potential to self-manage. I was part of giving them hope, and that meant a great deal.”