Sunday, 15 June 2014

Open to new ideas, Containing and Holding, and Celebrating Eileen’s work with Joy and Hugh

Last weekend’s Open Garden event was a huge success! The weather was fantastic, and 180 people walked through the gate (all having paid a £4 entrance fee). The House in Scotland’s Garden was the one to see, the one people described as the most interesting and creative, the one that gave folks the most ideas for their own gardens, and yes most people had a smile or two at what they saw and so I wasn't disappointed.

I took an extra day’s annual leave on the Monday, and as a consequence the remainder of last week was ‘back to back busy-i-ness’. There were, however, some high spots. Wednesday I was in London at the Institute of Psychiatry, who were hosting the 2014 Eileen Skellern Memorial Lecture and Lifetime Achievement Award. The former was presented by Professor Joy Duxbury (University of Central Lancashire), and the later was presented to Professor Hugh McKenna (Ulster University).

Eileen Skellern made a significant contribution to the development of contemporary mental health nursing. She planned the first international psychiatric nursing conference way back in 1980. Following her death there has been a annual memorial lecture to celebrate the work of others in mental health nursing – and this year Joy presented her work on the need to reduce oppression and violence in mental health services. It was a brilliant and passionate presentation, using music and poignant case studies to reveal the sometimes (all too often) dreadful consequences of the use of restraint in today's services.

Her presentation made me think of the work of Bion and Winnicott. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have long drawn on Bions concept of ‘containment’ and Winnicott's concept of ‘holding’ – both these concepts have had a profound influence on the development of the field of modern day psychoanalysis. Up to now I have perhaps thought of and used these concepts as being somewhat interchangeable – but Joys presentation made me think differently.

As did a conversation I had on Friday when I was discussing the presentation with a non-mental health nursing colleague and I was asked to provide an explanation of the concept of containment – which I didn't do well as my colleague perceived ‘containment’ as perhaps being restrictive in a oppressive sense. I got to thinking that ‘holding’ might be a more positive concept- although where this is transposed to the physical holding of others such as in the examples of restraint Joy talked about its likely to be anything but positive.

What was positive was Hugh’s address. Hugh and I share a similar time line in terms of becoming a mental health nurse, educationalist and researcher. He was possibly 6 to 7 years in front of me. His passionate acceptance speech reminded us all of the importance of science and humanity, of reaching out, and of embracing the emotionality of practice, and being there for others. It was a speech of inspiration and of celebration.

And following the Eileen Skellern awards we did celebrate in a small pub with a live jazz band that was just around the corner from Kings College Hospital. I have never been to Kings before, it looked an impressive hospital. It’s been around for over 170 years and over that time its reputation as a world class hospital has been justifiably established. It has prided itself on nurturing a culture of creatively and innovation.


Creativity, enterprise and innovation is something I feel passionately about encouraging in our School. I think it is the way we need to be in taking our ambitions forward. So it was great to be invited to see the work of some of our students on Friday. They had been asked to use art to capture and present their academic thinking and experiences. The pictures they produced were insightful representations of their experience and the experiences of those they cared for. Seeing and sharing their enthusiasm was as good as wining an award any day.