Impact News

Responding to Violence, Suicide, Psychosis and Trauma

Mental health: training staff and users together – Kelvin Barton

Posted: 27 September 2007 | Subscribe Online

writes Anabel Unity Sale

Kelvin Barton is used to being different. For a start an impressive proportion of the 33-year-old’s body is covered in an array of colourful and intricate tattoos, as well as eight piercings. Becoming a social worker was not what Barton initially planned to do with his life. After leaving home at 16 he was homeless for a year before training as a tattooist and body piercer. But he doesn’t see the leap from body artist to social worker seven years ago as a huge one: “Bedside manner in body art is crucial and I had a lot of transferable skills in keeping people calm.”

These have proved invaluable in his role as mental health services co-ordinator for Providence Row Housing Association. And it is here that he has shown he can make a difference by introducing innovative training for staff and service users alike.

Based on Bethnal Green Road in East London, the housing association provides accommodation ranging from hostels to supported housing for 600 people who are homeless or likely to be homeless in London. As part of its Grounded Initiative the housing association has been piloting mental health training for services users and staff to attend together.

The idea stemmed from a request from a resident for awareness training in mental health. As it is Barton’s responsibility to source training for his colleagues, he decided to extend it to any interested service users. “It hadn’t been done here before and I thought it made absolute sense to train people together,” he says.

An added impetus for the joint training was a mental health workshop run two years ago for all the housing association’s staff – not just those in front-line positions – that was well received. One outcome Barton wants to achieve via the joint training is a reduction in the stigma associated with mental health issues and a better sense of integration among clients and staff. “I want to reduce the ‘them and us’ mentality. We are all working and living in this environment and the better we can understand each other and what we are trying to achieve the nicer the place will be.”

Barton decided to use trainer Iain Bourne because he had been trained by him before. “Iain was the first person I thought of because his style is fantastic and very engaging. I wanted to find a trainer who had a flair for training contrasting people, who didn’t just have a flipchart that said, ‘this is the diagnosis’. That’s fine if you’re studying for a doctorate but I wanted it to be more interactive. So people thought outside of the diagnosis – they saw the person holistically.”

The first training session took place in February and was on mental health awareness and covered legislation, how the system operates and people’s experiences of being in the system. Of the 18 people who voluntarily attended, half were service users and half were staff from different departments in the housing association.

In July, a second workshop was run on depression and anxiety, and again 18 people attended, split equally between professionals and users. And last month, a third session on anger and frustration was run with a focus on how these feelings manifest themselves both in a working environment for the professionals and a home environment for the residents and service users.

Ensuring that clients were not treated differently from staff during training was essential, Barton says. Each have experience that the others can learn from and training together helped people bond, he adds.

One of the housing association’s support workers who attended the depression and anxiety workshop says it was a fantastic idea to train staff and clients together:

“This was the best part of the training for me for many reasons. First, it seemed useful for clients suffering from these problems as it gave them helpful information and advice. Second, clients’ accounts and stories in the subject enriched the overall training for staff as these were real-life examples.”

He adds that completing the training with his client strengthened their working relationship because they experienced it as “equal members”.


Tips for training services users and professionals together on mental health issues.● Provide interactive training to engage people and use different techniques for different people.
● As a trainer use examples from your own professional experience.
● Acknowledge that professionals work in different ways and try to incorporate something for everyone into the session.
● Acknowledge those you are training have a wealth of knowledge, be it professional or as service user, so do not patronise them.
● Do not make assumptions about what a mental health diagnosis tells you about a person as circumstances can vary.
● Support the person rather than their mental health diagnosis.

Contact the author
Anabel Unity SaleThis article appeared in the 27 September issue under the headline “In it together”

Filed under: Impact Training, psychosis

Catharsis or “better out than in” – when faced with an aggressor is it best to let them express their anger?

Actually this is a really critical question when considering your best strategy in deal with a potentially explosive situation. Is it best to encourage the aggressor to vent their anger, or work to contain it? The pneumatic plumbing model suggests that its best to let the aggressor let off steam, alleviate the internal pressure and avert a potential explosion. Its an interesting, commonsense and intuitive approach. Therapeutically, I think most people would agree that its not good to store up angry feelings, but there is a big difference between what might be helpful right now and what might help in the longer term. The following study is food for thought:

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 28, No. 6, 724-731 (2002)
DOI: 10.1177/0146167202289002
© 2002 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.

Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction, Anger, and Aggressive Responding

Brad J. Bushman

Iowa State University, <!– var u=”bushman”,d=””;document.getElementById(“em0”).innerHTML=’

Filed under: Violence

Mental Health Service User Involvement – Community Care 27.09.2007

Providence Row’s Mental Health Co-ordinator, Kelvin Barton, has been taking user-involvement to a new level. Usually user-involvement refers to increased levels of consultation and representation in decision-making processes. Sometimes users can “graduate” into helpers or even become staff. Many MIND groups even make their staff training sessions available to the more able of their service users.

Kelvin’s idea, however, is that the people who would benefit most from mental health training are the users themselves – not only do they have the greatest curiosity about their own condition, but they also have the greatest need to understand the issues faced by their service users. Kelvin invited us to deliver this training – professional training which cuts out the professionals and goes straight to the service users. This is a quite different concept to that of group therapy or self-help groups (e.g. Hearing Voices, Depressives Anonymous, etc.) and takes the copncept of empowerment to another level.

 So far there have been courses on “Experiencing Mental Health Issues”, “Anxiety and Depression”, and “Anger and Iritability.” Essentially these are the same courses that would have been delivered to professional groups except instead of giving advice on helping others, there is a much greater emphasis on self-help.

 The article appers in CommunityCare on 27th September 2007

Filed under: Impact Training, psychosis, Uncategorized, , , ,

Community Care Feature Article: 12 July 2007


I have no idea what the article will be like, but Simeon Brody is writing a feature on Social Workers and Dangerous Behaviour in the July 21st edition of Community Care. You may even see a few ugly mug shots of me there!


Filed under: Impact Training, Uncategorized, Violence, , , ,

National suicide rate at an all time low

Wednesday 11 April 2007 11:48
Department of Health (National)

National suicide rate at an all time low . But suicides by mental health patients could be prevented by Supervised Community Treatment
A progress report published by the National Institute for Mental Health in England today shows that good progress is being made towards meeting the Government target to reduce suicide by 20 per cent by 2010, but more can be done to bring down the suicide rate further. The report sets out the achievements of the last 12 months and shows:
the lowest overall rate of suicide amongst the general population on record;
a fall in suicide rates amongst young men – continuing the downward trend since the problem of suicides in this group first escalated some 30 years ago;
a fall in the rate of self-inflicted deaths in prisons to 70 in 2005/6, a 17 per cent reduction compared with last year; and
a fall in the number of suicides amongst mental health in-patients from 217 in 1997 to 154 in 2004.
The report also says that more needs to be done to reduce the number of people in contact with mental health services who take their own lives. The Avoidable Deaths report published last year estimated that 56 mental health patients discharged from hospital die every year following non-compliance with medication or loss of contact with services. Supervised Community Treatment (SCT), a measure to improve clinical risk management that the Government is introducing in its Mental Health Bill, has the potential to help prevent those deaths.
Having a severe mental illness is a known risk factor of suicide and a significant number of suicides occur during in-patient care or shortly after discharge. Avoidable Deaths showed around 200 suicides a year – or 14 per cent of all suicides – follow non-compliance with treatment. Better compliance with treatment and closer supervision were highlighted by clinicians as the main ways of reducing suicide risk.
National Clinical Director for Mental Health Professor Louis Appleby said:
“The overall rate of suicide amongst the general population is continuing to fall and is the lowest on record. We are seeing encouraging progress towards the target to reduce suicide by 20 per cent by 2010 but is important that we maintain the momentum.
“I am very encouraged to see a further fall in the suicide rate for young men. There is now clear evidence of a sustained fall in suicide amongst this group.
“We are also seeing a reduction in the number of suicides amongst mental health in-patients. However, areas of clinical practice need to be strengthened if suicides in metal health care are to be prevented. Two important areas are the management of risk in patients discharged from hospital, and in patients who are non-compliant with their treatment.
“Good clinical care needs to be backed by legal powers, and this is why the Government is introducing Supervised Community Treatment in the Mental Health Bill currently being debated in Parliament. SCT will ensure that patients in the community who are at risk of suicide will receive the treatment they need.”
The report includes a number of regional examples of the National Institute for Mental Health in England, part of the Care Services Improvement Partnership (CSIP), working with partner agencies to deliver on the extensive work outlined in the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England. They include:
Durham and Darlington’s Multi-Agency Suicide Prevention Task Force’s research into the frequency and nature of contact with a number of agencies, including the criminal justice system, to develop information sharing protocols and pathways;
Barnsley PCT working with the Highways Agency on a study of bridge related suicides following a number of incidents around a junction of the M1. In partnership with the local council, and the Samaritans, signage has been erected on six local motorway bridges and one reservoir;
In the West Midlands, work with small non-statutory organisations in the promotion of health has been identified as an important factor in suicide prevention in rural communities; and
In London, the heightened risk of suicide amongst young men and those from ethnic minority groups is being addressed by the development of new outreach services targeted on specific ethnic groups. Local community groups are being engaged in order to increase local understanding of where people can access help.
The first was launched in September 2002 to support the target set in the White Paper Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation to reduce the death rate from suicide and undetermined injury by at least 20 per cent by 2010. This is the fourth annual report outlining progress made in implementing the strategy.
Suicide rates, whilst fluctuating year on year, show a downward trend since the early 1980s. The target detailed above is to reduce the death rate from suicide and injury (and poisoning) of undetermined intent by at least a fifth by 2010 from a baseline rate of 9.2 deaths per 100,000 population in 1995/6/7 to 7.3 deaths per 100,000 in 2009/10/11.
The latest available data for the three years 2003/4/5 show a rate of 8.5 deaths per 1000,000 population – a reduction of 7.4 per cent from the 1995/6/7 baseline.
CSIP, with its eight regional development centres, works at a local and regional level to help implement the objectives of the strategy.
The National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England Annual report on progress 2006 is available to view online at
Avoidable Deaths: Five year report of the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, published in December 2006, is available online at the link below
More information on the Mental Health Bill is at the link below


Filed under: Suicide