On Tuesday of this week it was my privilege to be a member of a panel at an event at the Scottish Story Telling Centre – with silent, symbolic representation from the late George Mackay Brown in the form of an Orkney chair in one corner of the room. The evening was organised by the Self Management Network Scotland , part of the Health and Social Care Alliance,and expertly chaired by Blythe Robertson, who is the policy lead for self management and health literacy at the Scottish Government.
It proved to be a most stimulating evening with three very different presentations from those of us on the panel and plenty of questions from an intelligent and thoughtful audience. Following my own reflections on stroke and some ruminations from Hamish (well rehearsed on the pages of this blog), there was a moving description from Sheila Peaston and Maria Martin of Pink Ladies 1st, of how they use story-telling and the written word to help support some of the vulnerable clients with whom they work. Their quotation from a powerful piece of writing by one of their clients ably demonstrated the ability of the written word to heal and empower.
Finally, we had a multi-media presentation from Alan Ainsley about the ways in which he and his late wife used writing and blogging to help deal with Louise’s diagnosis and death from terminal cancer and his own depression
Included in Alan’s very personal and wide-ranging presentation was a video of the Power of OK (some explicit language),which is part of the See Me campaign to change attitudes towards mental health, especially in the work place. Compulsive viewing for everyone.
The question posed by the Alliance at the beginning of the evening was “Can reading and writing help with the self-management of long-term conditions?” Each of us answered this question from very different perspectives, but explicitly and implicitly all four of us answered in the affirmative. During the question and answer session which followed we tried to give honest answers to probing questions from a clearly interested and engaged audience.
Include vulnerability, stroke, cancer, depression, and bereavement in the same event and you would not expect to find space for a lot of humour there – but amongst the group of us we somehow managed to allow that in that as well.
George Mackay Brown would have approved of that.