Friday, March 24, 2017

Problem solving in Camberwell Library

Local people were asked to ‘turn up and talk’ this week in Camberwell Library as part of an initiative that involves setting up ‘problem solving booths’ for people to share advice and help tackle each other’s problems.


This simple approach is being tested as a way to provide help, advice and signposting for local people. The project has been developed as part of Thrive London: a citywide movement for mental health, supported by the Mayor of London and the London Health Board that aims to make mental health a priority in London.


“It’s a straightforward concept that enables people who wouldn’t normally talk to each other to come together, break down barriers and demonstrates that we all have something to offer other people.” explains Project Director, Dr Charlie Howard.


The idea came from a young Londoner who had just come out of prison. When asked what would make a difference to the wellbeing of his community, he replied “a problem solving booth right here on my street”. The booths are set up and supported by trained health professionals who are taking time out of their usual roles to work with their local community.


Taking part in the project today Janet had the opportunity to talk and listen “It was a nice experience, I have a passion for people, sharing and talking is a great way to reach out and engage people. Sometimes it’s about being about to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and consider things from their perspective.”


People can come along and talk about a whole range of issues such as personal challenges, health, or education. Or they can simply have a chat - the idea is that everyone who takes part is an expert. The project moves away from the traditional approach of someone seeking help from a professional to a more balanced two-way conversation.


Dr Matthew Patrick, Chief Executive of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, based at the Maudsley Hospital in Denmark Hill: “As professionals, we are often positioned as the ‘experts’. Whilst this can have a value, it can also make us feel unreachable or imposing. Going to speak to a mental health professional, for example, can feel totally overwhelming for lots of people, this is about mutual aid. Today I’ve been sat in both the ‘helped’ and ‘helper’ seat. It has been really helpful to hear people’s views and advice”


Another young person who took part in the project said: “The idea basically strips out the ‘top down’ approach and shifts things – it gets the community involved from the bottom up. As a young person it’s good for me to see public services working for us.”

You can read a blog about the event by SLaM Early Intervention Specialist Christina Clark here

The project originated in Camden, creating a booth made of pizza boxes, two chairs and some cardboard signs. You can watch a three minute film about it here:


Caption: SLaM Chief Executive Dr Matthew Patrick (L) MP Norman Lamb (R)

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