Don't let lived experience stay Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
At that first exhibition a decade ago, one piece that stuck with me was a ‘consulting room’ completely wallpapered with unsent letters from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital archives, original letters from inpatients. Many of these letters were heart-breaking to read, especially as they often began with desperate pleas for a response or a reply from family, friends or medical staff. We now know over 100 years later that those letters had never even been posted. The common theme which came across in all the letters was ‘help me’.
Whilst some might argue much has changed in the last 100 years, or that the stigma towards those who experience mental illness has decreased, or in a world of constant social media everyone now has a voice. But we also know from Cyrenians’ own work that there are still far too many people who feel abandoned, ignored, and struggling to be heard with decisions being made for them.
Across our own organisation we know how important it is to listen to those who use our services, to be open to change, and ensure that those same voices are at the heart of our decision-making. Just one of the reasons we’re committed to #KeepingThePromise and centering the voices and opinions of those using our services.
For example, we’re working closely with young people to look at how we make our systems work for them. How can they be improved? What needs to change so we can confidently say we are upholding the rights of the child? More broadly, how can we best learn from people with lived experience, and make sure their views are not just heard but also put into action? In an organisation as diverse as Cyrenians, we know there is no one size fits all and we are working hard, in many different ways, to ensure people who use our services have a voice and do not remain “out of sight, out of mind”.
At last Tuesday’s launch it was great to reconnect with colleagues and friends from years gone by but also a pleasure to see newer Cyrenians’ colleagues and young people from our Creative Natives project. The young people at Creative Natives were gathering ideas for their own exhibition, which will be held at St Margaret’s House Gallery in Edinburgh in January - and we’re hopeful that some of these young artists will also submit work for next year’s OOSOOM! Watch this space for more information about their upcoming exhibition!