The PIECEs arts team in India successfully conducted a virtual workshop with 10 mental health professionals from SCARF India on 6th and 7th July 2021. Here is what the workshop leader Ms. Mrithula Chetlur has to say about the workshops
Interviewer: Hi Mrithula, you did a great job leading the mental health professionals (MHP) workshop. How did you find it?
Mrithula: Actually I came on board not knowing whether I’ll have to be an actor or a joker. So when I was asked to be one, I thought it was interesting to see what would come up in the field of mental health. From few initial trainings I definitely was aware that it was a little larger world that I would be interacting with. So it was both incredible excitement and quite a bit of responsibility. Also I was aware that the cultural relevance of what we were doing was important. The fact that we are regionalising and rooting the workshop to our culture was so exciting for me.
I: Did you get what you wanted from this workshop?
Mrithula: It gave me more than I expected. Doing it with MHPs alone was tremendous and I know we are going to explore a more unknown world when we do this with the caregivers and the patients
I: What did you observe about participant contribution?
Mrithula: I would like to appreciate the time and effort that the Clinicians put in to participate in the workshop, understanding how valuable each of their time is. I was pleasantly surprised at their openness to share and how they quickly grasped what we were looking for from them. They were very open to bringing their perspectives into the conversation.
I: You have lead a lot of workshops in different settings. How different was this workshop when compared to others?
Mrithula: In other workshops we are working with worlds that we are kind of aware of. For example the themes and the type of stories which they share. But here, we saw how the MHPs involvement in their clients lives influences the conversations that we had. We saw that they are a lot more intricately involved in their clients lives personally. Also when we did one exercise where the MHPs have to act out a scenario, we saw how they were cued in to ask questions and get to know the client more. It usually happens with us the facilitators but to have that from the other side was very interesting.
I: The MHP appeared to enjoy the games you had for them. Did you get what you wanted from the workshops?
Mrithula: Yes we had few themes which we thought was important. But we were open because this is one workshop where we were going to gain information than to impart. This was a catalyst to gain more from the people’s experience. So whatever came out was fodder for us. We also got few surprises, for instance when we did the monologues on the second day, where the conversation took us was very interesting for us, that was exactly what we wanted see how a trigger would take us to different places as it makes understand what they have to handle. That way it was defined to have that fluidity and it did surprise us.
I: You did a good job of involving the participants in the activities. How did your team find balancing and managing time for all participants?
Mrithula: Paul and Sunil were incredibly helpful in handling this thought of balancing time for doing and talking. Coz at the end of the day the aim is to gain perspectives from their experiences. But in TO workshops there is a lot of importance in making participants ‘do’, as it makes the person get out of their head and in turn will make them share things which they normally might not. So how much to prioritize doing over sharing was constantly being reviewed as we were going through. So yes time management was of concern, understanding that people are short on time. Thoughts were on do we let everyone engage in everything. So we left it to them, if they wanted to share let them but if they are just reacting let them be and we didn’t want to pull anyone in.
I: Was language a factor which influenced the workshop?
Mrithula: Only when we thought we should do in Tamil. Though I speak in Tamil, certain conversations I have never had in Tamil and so I don’t know or am not used to using certain words or usages. Especially being someone who wants to have conversations to people to become aware of, I realised that certain conversations I haven’t had in Tamil. And even haven’t thought about them in that angle. It was actually a learning experience for me personally and I’ve become more mindful of it. But it was not a barrier in getting or sharing information on experiences.
I: Are there things you are planning to change for the next two workshops with patients and caregivers from your experience with the MHP?
Mrithula: There is already an ongoing discussion to keep the basics same and to tweak the monologues and scenarios for the next two workshops to bring out life related themes. So yes there are certain changes which we are planning.
I: On a scale of 0-10 how satisfied were you in conducting this workshop?
Mrithula: I think our goal was to know more of the life of the people attending and to know them more personally. Having that in mind I never give 10 on 10 for any scale because there is nothing which is perfect. So I would give a 9.5 on 10 for the workshop which happened.
I: Thank you so much, Mrithula, for your time.
Mrithula: Thank you.