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Providing a platform for the voices of BAME women with lived experience of mental health crisis in Bristol

In May 2019, a conference ‘Call To Action’ took place in Bristol. This was the ‘fruit’ of
a mission by a small voluntary BAME focused mental health service ‘Nilaari’, to
enable a group of women to have a voice and be heard as key note speakers at a
co-produced event. These resilient women have spent years telling their stories
and seeing the plethora of reports produced which evidence that their own
experiences are widespread and shocking. They all have lived experience as either
carers or service users themselves (or both)and of detention under the Mental
Health Act, and wanted to offer their own examples and suggestions for ways to
change practice across the City to remove discrimination, have equal access to
services and to be treated with dignity and respect.

This action began in March 2018 when a group of BAME women attended a focus
group delivered by Nilaari, to inform the revision of the Mental Health Act,
commissioned by Race Equality Foundation.

Their testimony was raw and shaming , resembled numerous well documented
research reports going back to the mid-90s. It was scarily familiar- so why has
practice not improved?

The women had shared their stories but several stated that they had given up hope
that anyone would listen. So Nilaari (which is Swahili for ‘to have self-worth’) shared
the women’s testimony at local mental health service group meetings with statutory
and voluntary providers. In December, the CCG and AWP (Mental Health NHS
services)responded and there was a request to Nilaari for a proposal, funding was
given and the ‘Call To Action’ conference became a reality.

‘A Call To Action’ was a partnership of statutory and voluntary services working
together. Nilaari designed the event with an agenda completely focused on the
testimony of the women. The conference was aimed at senior managers and on the
day, there were 50 delegates, some in very senior positions. The women were our
keynote speakers who were eloquent, measured and honest about their experiences
of discrimination and inequalities but also, importantly, their practical and eminently
simple and sensible solutions.

The three break out groups throughout the day had the themes of ‘Before’ During’
and ‘Post’ Detention with each group including at least one of our speakers to advise
and contribute – and keep it real. The practitioners listened, questioned and
suggested alternatives which was documented and later collated into the CTA
Report.

Written pledges were collected from participants which were recently emailed back
to them as reminders of the day. The women are being invited to some meetings
with senior managers, changes are being made to some recruitment processes and
a scrutiny group is being discussed.

Nilaari and the other partners (CCG, AWP, CASS, Rethink and Bristol Mind) are
aware that we need to keep nudging, reminding, questioning and challenging, to see
the changes of which we want to be a part. We made an impact.
Our report is both explicit and hopeful. Our women key note speakers were heard
and are being involved in discussions about how to improve practice.
Download the ‘Call To Action’ report from: www.nilaari.co.uk

Shelagh Hetreed – Nilaari