MHAW2020: Interview with Together National Steering Group member David Cleverdon

For Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 (MHAW2020) at Together we have chosen the theme of lived experience. For the week we will be focusing on the value of the knowledge people gain from their experiences and how important that is for us in our approach to supporting people experiencing mental distress.

We spoke with David Cleverdon who himself has lived experience of mental distress and is a member of Together’s National Service User Steering Group which advises our organisation on strategic and planning decisions. When we asked David to take part in the interview for MHAW2020 he commented on how he was “delighted to hear that the focus this year will be on the value of the immense resource of lived experience, the building blocks of Together, and how the organisation uses this to lead and inform on the approach, delivery and modelling of care.” 

David also added that The statement and proposals for the week for me really sum up the importance to the organisation of service user involvement and leadership in care as well as recognising the fingerprint like uniqueness of the individuals form of mental distress on a personal level”. Thank you to David for taking part in the interview and this is below:

How has the knowledge you’ve gained from your lived experience of mental distress helped inform decisions you’ve made around support you’ve made in the past or plans you’ve made for the future?

Yes it certainly has. I think the first thing that occurs to me is that my experience of mental distress and how it was negatively treated in the past by professionals is in itself valuable lived experience. How to treat people, being non judgemental etc, realising boundaries personal and professional, seeing from alternative perspectives and reference points in order to best support. What is best practice for myself and my peers.

Why do you think it’s important that Together has a National Steering Group that uses lived experience to inform the decisions the charity makes?

I feel that the answer to this is in the question. Together felt it was important to initialise a National Service User Steering Group as it realises the value of lived experience and its potential to inform and guide the decisions the charity makes. The very fact that the National Steering Group exists in the first place is as good a indication of how important service user feedback is to the organisation. It also shows how much it values it as well as being descriptive of the value of service user lived experience involvement in the development and evolution of Together’s care model.

Would you say that your lived experience has had an impact on your approach to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown?

I’ve found tools picked up along the way as a direct result of lived experience have been very useful in self assessment and monitoring during lockdown.

Are there any tips you feel you’ve gained from your experience you’d like to pass on to others?

Practice mindfulness, be good to yourself.

Read more on our theme of lived experience for MHAW2020 here