Sunday, 29 September 2013

Satisfaction, Empathy, and Tweets in the Mary Seacole User and Carers Garden

Last week it felt a little like I was a chess piece being played in a 3D game of chess. I found myself either moving at so many different levels at one time or being moved by others in multiple ways and directions. It was fantastic to be able to put my feet up at the end of Friday evening, somewhat tired but, for lots or reasons, feeling very satisfied!

Satisfaction is a strange concept – the Rolling Stones thought you couldn't get it, Bernard Shaw thought satisfaction was death, and Jarod Kintz (the author) once declared he would eat a mosquito to satisfy his hunger for an itch. Despite the busy-ness of last week there were many things that contributed to my end of Friday evening sense of satisfaction.

Monday, having decided to take the last day of my 2013 annual leave, I was able to wake up in the house in Scotland. The Scottish sea, sunshine and screaming seagulls all contributed to my sense of wellbeing and satisfaction with life. Tuesday I was back down on this side of the Border and spent the day with some wonderful folk from the Wigan, Wrightington and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust.

It was a day spent meeting a range of people, and being able to discuss the many challenges there are in providing health care in a rapidly changing world that in itself was fulfilling and informative. The next day I was sent a link to a recent video they had made on empathy. I had a quick look, played it again and thought these were my kind of people! Have a look and see what you think: everyone should watch it.

I sent the link out via Twitter, and although as yet I don’t have that many ‘followers’ I was confident that as each person saw it and ‘re-tweeted’ the video would soon have a wide audience. And it was using the collective power of Twitter that also contributed to my satisfaction this week. Wednesday morning the first tweet I looked at circa 06.00 pointed me in the direction of a web page on Asdas, online shopping site. There, unbelievably was an advertisement for a halloween costume described as ‘mental health patient’ with a picture showing a ‘straight jacket’ type garment covered in dripping blood and the model holding a bloodied meat cleaver in their hand.

I was truly deeply outraged! I immediately started tweeting to communicate this situation to others and to get people to contact Asda to demand to have it removed. I was not alone thankfully, and the Twitter community picked up on the story and soon the twitter protest had gone viral. Eventually Asda removed the costume from sale as did Tesco, who were also stocking a similar costume, and both pledged to make a substantial donation to mental health charities. It was a triumph for a community gaining a voice and being able to use it.

Interestingly I learnt last week that our University has been ranked 4th of all Universities in the UK for using social media. Only Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics have a greater number of followers on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

Yesterday and today are the first of the new academic seasons open days – 2300 potential students and their families are booked to visit the Schools various programme stands. Colleagues are making a fantastic commitment to the School in giving up their time on what is proving to be a very hot and sunny weekend. Last week I also got to meet some potential future students. These were pupils Irlam & Cadishad College, Buile Hill Visual Arts College, All Hallows RC College and the Oasis Academy at Media City. They had come to the School to build a Service User and Carers Garden in the central courtyard of our building.

The garden themes include plants such as seasonal herbs, leaves, and vegetables, medicinal plants and a selection of wild flowers. Award winning gardener Joan Mulvenna of Garden Design Manchester and the not-for-profit social enterprise Tree Inspired planned and help the young pupils bring the garden to life. The garden was also created as a living memorial for our sadly departed carer colleague Terry Flahety, who was both a tireless campaigner for carer services, and a founder member of the Schools Service User and Carers Group. It was clear to see that at the end of the day, all those involved were very satisfied.