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Eco-maps and safety assessments: inside week four at Think Ahead’s Summer Institute

This week at the Summer Institute risk assessments – or rather ‘safety assessments’ – took centre stage. Participants spent a day exploring how to assess the level of protection from harm that a person with mental health problems might require, through a mixture of teaching sessions and group work.

These sessions included looking at some important tools that allow people with mental health problems to illustrate the variety of relationships in their lives, to discuss the quality of these relationships, and to identify who they would speak to for support. Participants were then asked to imagine themselves to have a complex mental health problem and then to consider who they might speak to.

“We developed an understanding of genograms and eco-maps and were given space to apply them,” says Al Tooms, a 2016 participant. “We all talked about the importance of collaborating with the person we might be assessing in a sensitive manner to generate a successful, person-centered outcome.”

Fellow participant Bethan Leigh-Browne added: “It was interesting to think about how we could redefine ‘risk assessments’ as ‘safety assessments’ and how by using this language around ‘safety’ and ‘protection’, instead of ‘risk’, service users may feel less stigma and more able to engage.”

“Safety assessments are part of day-to-day social work,” says Practice Specialist Jacqui Bell, who spent more than 20 years in frontline practice. “If a person is feeling low and distressed sometimes that risk can be internalised. Social workers play a crucial role in assessing the likelihood of such an occurrence, and how they can keep that person safe.”

Earlier in the week our participants heard from someone with lived experience of Personality Disorder, alongside a social worker and a psychiatrist, to give perspectives on this specific mental health problem. This was followed by a session on the dual diagnosis of substance misuse and mental health problems.

Also this week, participants gave group presentations on working with a parent with mental health problems and explored the impact of life-course changes on a person’s mental health.

You can follow more from our Summer Institute at #ThinkAheadSI

Read about our Week OneWeek Two and Week Three.