My thoughts are slippery, tricky things. Ideas come and go across my mind all the time. In clinical terms my thought patterns are described as “Knight’s move” thinking (after the chess piece), me, I tend to describe it as having a butterfly brain. It can infuriating for others and yet also leads to insights and connections that would escape me otherwise. All in all I generally consider it one of the better parts of having a mental health condition.
A number of months ago I was co-facilitating a day where we were mapping a process. In order to bring the map to life I gave each team a Lego minifigure to move around their emerging design. I noticed that people spoke more openly and confidently when they placed the figure and that everyone wanted to have a “go” with it. Which got me thinking……..
I’ve been refining some of the work I do. I never meant to move in to mental health training but it seems an inevitable side effect of coming out so I’ve embraced it. Time and again I’ve found that people devour the rich content of say Mental Health First Aid but still struggle with how to break down the stigma or challenge the discrimination. Which got me thinking……..
Mental Health is a complex, confusing and contradictory subject. Symptoms can be significantly different for two people with an identical diagnosis. Yet so often when we are portrayed in the media the accompanying image is the standard “headclutcher” picture. It’s universal and comes in all different colours, creeds, abilities, sexualities. Which got me thinking……..
Most people have a way they see themselves, a persona, an archetype. Perhaps a role they see that they fulfil in the world. Similarly in organisations, people get pigeonholed by colleagues, by their boss. It’s not all of who they are but it represents some version of some truth even if it’s not rooted in fact. Which got me thinking……..
As you can tell, I do a lot of thinking. Some would say I overthink (it’s a fair cop). I also do quite a bit of talking and so I took my series of ideas away with me when I went to visit with friends and colleagues. Chances are that if we’ve spoken in the last few months then you’ve unwittingly contributed a piece to what I’m building, helped me construct a better version. These conversations have happened in diverse places – in Royal Colleges, at kitchen tables, over a beer, out on a bike, on long walks. They’ve been both virtual and real, in England, Scotland and the USA. To all of you – thank you.
Today I’m launching a new twitter feed and website to highlight everyday stigma and discrimination. You’ll find content via @Mental_Blocks and replicated on the website www.thementalblocks.com. Using Lego figures I am going to tell a story about how stigma and discrimination affects people. There will be several new images a week and the narrative will build, adding new characters and situations as it goes. Whilst I’m starting with a workplace narrative there will be a chance for people to suggest directions for the story or if they have specific issues they wish to see explored then I hope to be able to accommodate that too. Over time this will build in to a compelling resource highlighting good workplace practice but it won’t always be comfortable reading. My hope is that the fun and approachable nature of the Lego figures will enable anyone, from any community, to engage with the messages I am sharing.
Which brings me to my final point. Aside from all the friends who have helped I also have a co-creator. That person prefers to remain anonymous currently. Not least because of the risk of potential stigma and discrimination they may face if their involvement became public. Which is what The Mental Blocks is aiming to change…… Please follow, tweet and retweet the images widely. RSS the blog, share the links with friends and colleagues. By all means download the images and use them as starting points for conversations. All I ask is that you credit us and comment on the blog when things are useful for you.