National User Workshop: Pune, 17-19 October

The three day event was a great success. Day 1 was a joint event with care givers and users/survivors of psychiatry. 42 people attanded, participated in and contributed to the proceedings. The spirit was constructive, the sessions were interactive, besides the conventional verbal forms non-verbal of communication was also encouraged and space was given to it to enable everyone to be part of learning from each other.

Day 2 and 3 were for users and survivors only. More than 20 peers participated in being with each other, listening to each other and learning from each other. Key themes covered what self-advocacy may mean in the mental health context, why choice is crucial and what are the links between self-advocacy, peer support and empowerment.

The spirit of co-operation was exceptionally strong. Typically, in the West, this is something we first need to reach. Here the willingness to co-operate was a given from the first minute of the workshop. It was then not too surprising that most sensitive issues came soon and people could address our own stereotypes and prejudices in a self-reflective way.

The three days provided ample opportunity to learn. To learn through experience and sharing. There was fun and there was silence, there was a lot of interaction, at various levels among the participants. There were moving minutes and there was laughter.

All agreeed that these 3 days just started something that calls for follow up and continuation.

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