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LIVED EXPERIENCE


The garden, kitchen, a guest bedroom, and the living room, at the Maytree house in north London.


To keep those staying in the house occupied, there are lots of games and books, but the idea is to provide both a quiet time, and plenty of conversation with volunteers. She added: “There is also time to rest and for walks. Guests are not locked in. It’s a very normalised house; there’s no sign on the door saying: ‘This is a treatment centre’.”


My ‘interviewee’ is now training to train other Maytree volunteers. She explained: “The five three-hour training sessions volunteers get cover elements including Maytree’s ethos, mission, and practice, but also active listening skills and role play. You also receive training on handling different situations and scenarios. It’s a great organisation to work for, and I feel extremely well supported. You’re given plenty of time and space to reflect on your experience, so at any ‘handover’ you not only ‘hand over’ on the guest, but also on how you are feeling. There are also regular reflective sessions where staff get together and discuss things.” Katharine Lazenby explained that many of Maytree’s volunteers have their own lived experiences of mental distress. She said: “I am very upfront about my own experiences, and let Maytree know if I am feeling depressive, since I know I won’t be of much help at these times.”


THE NETWORK | APRIL 2020 Still ‘a daily challenge’


She admitted it was still a ‘daily challenge’ managing her own mental wellbeing. She said: “I am working more than I ever have done, which is really positive and exciting, but it’s still a learning curve, in terms of managing my work and my time, and adjusting to different demands.” I asked about other mental health initiatives she is involved in. She said: “I also work as a tutor at the (East London NHS Foundation Trust’s) City & Hackney Recovery College, where I do most of my teaching. It’s a place where we support mental health service-users’ wellbeing and recovery journey through education and skill development.” The College offers free courses in a wide range of subjects. Katharine Lazenby elaborated: “Examples include courses based around mental health, such as on ‘Understanding depression’ and ‘Understanding psychosis’, and a ‘Hearing voices’ course. There are other courses aimed at helping people develop new skills – for instance I teach photography; there is a cross-stitching class, and a football class. Others are centred more around helping people identify strategies for managing the things they are dealing with. I have thus also taught a course called ‘Managing suicidal feelings’, and there are courses on


‘Mindfulness through dance’, ‘Managing your routine’, and ‘IT skills’; all sorts of things. The Recovery College is an amazing place, and the benefits for users are incredible.”


Two tutors – one with lived experience


Katharine Lazenby explained that every course is delivered by two tutors – one with lived experience of mental illness. ‘Co- production’ is at the heart of everything the College does. She elaborated: “Take the course titled ‘Understanding Psychosis’, and one of the tutors will be someone who has experienced the condition. The other presenter may well have a professional connection to the subject; for instance, they might be a psychiatrist or a professional photographer. We are all paid for our work. This term I have taught four courses - ‘Managing suicidal feelings’, ‘Mindfulness through Dance’, ‘Photography’, and ‘Creative Wellbeing’ – where we use art and creativity as a way of exploring emotions, and our experiences of wellbeing. The classes enable people to really feel like they can be themselves, because they know they are among peers struggling with other things. It’s a very non- judgmental and safe, environment.” Katharine Lazenby said she believed


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