Thursday, 9 July 2015

community of practice in mental health nursing: silencing critical voices [CoP out]

Yesterday I withdrew from an online "community of practice", a closed group, on the theme of mental health nursing because some of my comments had been deleted without informing me beforehand.  There were no guidelines set regarding comments or parameters for discussion on the group, and I hadn't been informed of any barriers to communication.  It felt like my voice had been silenced and my opinions disregarded.

I wasn't the only "expert by experience" on the group and I'd been invited to participate by the moderator, a lecturer.  This person knew me well, my background, the work I do as a writer, activist and campaigner, what had happened to my son in Stratheden Hospital, Fife.  They had to have known that my comments about mental health nursing practice would relate to my experiences with NHS Fife.

When I complained about my voice being silenced, the way it was done, without any discussion beforehand, there was no apology forthcoming.  Rather the lecturer said in an Email to me:

"More NHS staff have requested to join the community this week. I hope we can build a membership that consists of many people from all backgrounds, and those who have different experiences of mental health issues (good or bad)"

I responded by saying:

"You deleted my comments on the facebook group (CoP as you have called it), without discussing it with me first.  That is obviously your prerogative, as moderator.  However it is not good practice and will stifle real, honest dialogue.  In my opinion.

Good luck in your endeavour to "build a membership".  However, speaking as a community development worker of many years experience, by silencing voices there will be no community.  Rather you will have a hierarchical group where some people claim to be "experts" and others are deemed to be "learners".  In community work we are all learners.  Empowering one another."

I think that this mental health nursing lecturer was more concerned about the prospective NHS staff who were about to join the group than about the voice of a psychiatric survivor and carer who was already a group member.  I was of lesser value and treated accordingly.  My words deleted.  That hurt.

I expressed my pain and disappointment in a number of tweets last night, to get it out of my system, and then this morning wrote an Email to the lecturer, for their eyes only.

Here are some of my tweets:

[the last tweet was a reference to the Paul Weller set at Glastonbury 2015 and his song of that name which I was winding down to at the time]
[a reference to Hugh Masters, Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Scottish Government]
Wenger-Trayner website

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