Our PIECEs Research featured in the Media – “A story of their own: people with lived experience of mental illness on their journey so far”
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, our team SCARF in Chennai, India organized an event where individuals who have experienced mental illness explained how they overcame the stigma through treatment and support.
Read more about their inspiring journey here: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-story-of-their-own-people-with-lived-experience-of-mental-illness-on-their-journey-so-far/article67404305.ece/amp/.
After a remarkable year of conducting Randomized Control Trial (RCT) and dedicated efforts in mental health awareness, the PIECEs Research Teams from Pakistan and the UK came together for an enriching week of capacity building in London. With a shared commitment to improving mental healthcare for people with psychosis, the teams reunited to discuss their accomplishments, plan for the future, and engage in collaborative activities that promise to bring positive change to communities in need.
For the past year, the PIECEs teams in India and Pakistan have been diligently working on the six-month follow-up of the trial while engaging their communities and service users through the transformative power of the arts, notably the Theatre of the Oppressed. In Karachi, Pakistan, the team at Interactive Research and Development (IRD – Pakistan) is collaborating with Karwan-e-Hayat and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, making strides in psychiatric treatment, rehabilitation services, and mental health awareness. While in India, the Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF – Chennai, India) is leading the trial with the partner – EVAM. A significant achievement last year was the launch of small-scale research grants, aimed at enhancing the capacity of early career researchers. Proudly, the teams revealed that ten projects are already underway in their respective countries.
Day 1: Setting the Stage
The week began with enthusiasm as team members gathered at Queen Mary University’s Mile End campus in London.
The first day was all about reflecting on the past year’s achievements and charting out plans for the year ahead. Teams also discussed the economic, political, and climate-related challenges they had faced and the strategies they used to navigate those challenges.
Day 2: Strategic Planning and Community Engagement
The second day was filled with strategic planning sessions and engaging activities. Pakistan and India teams came together to review their arts and community plans for the coming year, create a timeline, and identify tasks for developing these activities. The day took an exciting turn with a session led by Raj Bhari, an expert in conflict resolution and participatory arts, who brought a wealth of knowledge to the table, enriching the teams with innovative community engagement strategies.
The day continued with a session led by Ali Campbell, a pioneer in Theatre of the Oppressed. The interactive workshop provided profound insights into applying this approach in practical contexts. The previous blogs had already discussed how art had been used to engage communities in India and Pakistan, making this session a fitting continuation of their work.
Day 3: Capacity Building and Learning Exchange
Day three focused on capacity building, led by Katherine Brittin on quality improvement. The session equipped the teams with valuable tools for enhancing the quality of their systems and conducting process evaluation, as a next step of PIECEs.
Teams took the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences, sharing the ideas they could use to ensure the quality improvement of the project.
Later in the day, the teams spent some time reflecting on their experiences of setting up a five-year-long research project. They delved into the challenges and strengths, contemplating how this journey challenged their beliefs about mental health and empowered individuals with lived experiences.
Day 4: Sharing Insights and Celebrating Achievements
On the fourth and final day, the teams had a series of captivating events planned. One of the principal investigators for the small-scale research grants shared her research findings, where individuals with lived experiences of mental health expressed their stories of psychosis and recovery through art.
For instance, a photograph of a simple cup of tea became a powerful symbol of comfort, and affection, demonstrating the profound impact of loved ones on recovery for people with psychosis.
The event reached its climax with captivating theatre performances by the India and Pakistan teams, offering a glimpse of their remarkable artwork in these countries. These performances ignited extensive discussions about the impact of art on communities in these countries, the process of recognizing the oppression, as well as the newfound sense of empowerment that people with lived experience of psychosis have experienced in expressing themselves.
The Future Ahead
As the week concluded, the teams engaged in thoughtful discussions about implementing their interventions, making them sustainable, and exploring fundraising opportunities. They also outlined their next steps for the year, driven by their shared passion to improve mental health services globally.
The PIECEs Research Teams’ visit to the UK was not just a gathering of like-minded individuals but a testament to their dedication to transforming mental healthcare for people with severe mental illness and raising awareness in their communities. Their commitment to research, community engagement, and the innovative use of performing arts promises a brighter future for mental health in Pakistan, India, and beyond. This united effort shows that when teams collaborate and share their strengths, remarkable progress can be made in the field of mental health.