“I feel I am being listened to and helping to make a real impact within mental health”
Ziaul, a member of our Service User and Carer Reference Group, has written a blog post about his involvement in shaping the Think Ahead programme. Here’s the piece in full, which first appeared on the Social Care Institute for Excellence’s co-production blog.
For about a year I’ve been involved with Think Ahead, the charity running a new programme for graduates and career-switchers to become mental health social workers. The Service User and Carer Reference Group has been shaping the development of the programme since its inception.
As well as attending regular meetings of the group to offer my opinions and experience, I have been part of the assessment centres used to determine who is accepted onto the programme. I interviewed candidates alongside a qualified assessor, asking questions from a service-user perspective. I also wrote a blog to help interested graduates understand how a social worker helped me through my psychosis.
I feel that input from me, and the other Reference Group members, really makes a difference and is an integral and important part of the Think Ahead set-up. The staff take my involvement seriously and see it as a valuable part of the programme. A service user has experience and skills (of recovery, managing their illness, personal strength, and so on) that are vitally important in helping others who are going through similar things, and I believe the Think Ahead team really understand this and value these qualities. No one is judgemental and everyone is personable and approachable.
My involvement with Think Ahead has also helped me in many ways. For instance, I’ve been able to gain new skills and experiences. It has been helpful in building my confidence to know that I am part of doing something which is positive and valued. I feel I am being listened to and helping to make a real impact within mental health.
Overall, I have found being involved with Think Ahead to be very exciting, and I look forward to each meeting and event that I attend.