After several months of thinking ‘I think I’d like to learn how to swim’, last year, I finally made the decision to enrol in adult swimming lessons. I was motivated, I felt fit and so was confident this was something I was capable of doing (and I must admit the lessons were also convenient to get to). Psychologists might say that I had high “self-efficacy”. Self-efficacy is the belief that you will successfully be able to complete a task, activity or performance.
However, my high self-efficacy did not necessarily mean that everything went smoothly or to plan. In the hours leading up to the first lesson I started to make excuses to myself and almost (spoiler alert!) didn’t go. I suspect you’re wondering what has all this got to do with anything?
The everyday management of a long-term condition is almost never done by individuals in isolation from others. The networks of relationships around people may include family members, friends, neighbours, colleagues, health professionals and even pets all of who play an important role in the management of long-term conditions. This is through, for example, their knowledge, support, help with accessing services, resources and valued activities.
In 2015 I was fortunate enough to be awarded some funding from Solent NHS Trust to explore the networks of people with long term mental health issues. This project looked at how people manage their networks day-to-day and when they are in crisis, looking to see what the differences were between networks and how people negotiate the relationships within them. All the participants were recruited from community groups and many of the participants were students of a local Recovery College*.
Could this statement be the one that encapsulates the perception that mental health services are frequently unable to help people with mental health issues?
A research participant in a study I’m conducting into support networks of people with long term mental health problems outlined what she saw as some of the problems with her encounters with health professionals in the mental health system.
Professor Anne Rogers explains how weaker social ties play a role in helping people manage a long term illness.
With ever more attention on the NHS and how many nurses and doctors are needed to give people the best care, one part of the health equation is going unnoticed – What attention is being paid to the role of the patient and their extended network of relationships? In early 70s West Coast America a piece of research by Anselm Strauss and colleagues examined a set of questions on ‘self-care’.
Here at the CLAHRC Wessex we have been using and developing an interactive tool called GENIE . This is designed to engage and link people with long-term health conditions to social activities and support they value and find useful.
We have been working on the Isle of Wight with the My Life a Full Life team and other organisations to see how we can integrate GENIE as part of day-to-day support for people. Last week we had our first meeting, after months of using the system there to work towards making GENIE ‘Business as Usual’.
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