Sample Chapter 3: Supervision within placement

The next sneak preview from ‘Innovations in Practice Learning‘ is taken from Chapter 3 entitled ‘Supervision within placement: Achieving best practice’ by Heidi Dix.

Students may find that they have a practice educator who is based within the agency and from whom they will receive weekly supervision. However, in other placements the practice educator is not based within the agency and an on-site practice super- visor will be appointed to provide day-to-day support and guidance. Students who have an on-site practice supervisor in addition to their practice educator may find that supervision will be given on alternate weeks by the practice educator and the on- site practice supervisor. The nature and content of supervision provided within these roles is slightly different. For example, supervision with an on-site practice supervisor could focus on the direct work the student is undertaking and have more of a man- agerial focus, for example, ensuring that the student is working within the agency’s eligibility criteria. However, supervision with a practice educator may have more of an educational and reflective focus, supporting the student to apply the knowledge they are learning in university and their self-directed learning to the work they are undertaking in placement.

Below are some comments from students in relation to the advantages and disadvantages of off-site and on-site models of practice education which I have heard over the years. Of course, these are generalisations and will not apply in all situations, but it is worth noting the strengths and limitations of both models. However, the most important thing is that the practice educator and practice supervisor work together to meet the learning needs of each individual student.

 

Advantages of having an off-site practice educator and on-site supervisor Disadvantages of having an off- site practice educator and on-site supervisor
‘If practice educators are not directly working within the agency they can provide greater objectivity and support students to question agency policy, procedures and practice.’ ‘Practice educators may not have direct practice experience in the area of social work that students are placed in.’
‘Off-site practice educators often bring experience from other areas of social work, enabling students to  compare and contrast their placement with other aspects of social work practice.’ ‘Off-site practice educators are often not available outside scheduled supervision times.’
‘Off-site practice educators, particularly those who work independently, will often support a number of students and will often provide group supervision which can be beneficial.’ ‘Contact with practice educators will be limited, particularly within the 70-day placement.’

 

Advantages of having an off-site practice educator and on-site supervisor Disadvantages of having an off-site practice educator and on-site supervisor
‘Practice educators will have direct practice experience of the work required within the agency.’ ‘Students can learn from different approaches and styles, eg “two heads are better than one.”’
‘They are often available for both formal and informal supervision,’ ‘Practice educators can be immersed in the culture of the agency and could be

adverse to the student asking questions that

demonstrate critical reflection.’

‘Supervision will be offered on a weekly basis with the same person.’ ‘Students will need to ensure there are opportunities to shadow other colleagues, not just their on-site practice educator.’

 

The majority of supervision students receive will be on a one-to-one basis, although there may be occasions when group supervision is used. Students often find this helpful as it enables them to share learning with other students in a practice setting and provides another form of support (Doel, 2010). However, one-to-one sessions are critically important in enabling a student to focus clearly and in depth on issues specific to their individual learning needs, particularly if a student has additional learning needs (see Chapter 8). There are also different expectations of students in their first and final placements as they build on the capabilities demonstrated in the first placement. Although students will still be offered guidance and support in their final placement, they should be given more autonomy as their confidence and ability increases. Students often find that their learning needs change as their confidence increases and consequently require different things from supervision. For example, in early supervision sessions, students may require support to develop their self- belief. However, as students develop in confidence, they may require less of this type of support and supervision could focus more on developing critical thinking skills.

An insight into what students can expect from their supervisors and practice educators

As adult learners, Rogers and Horrocks (2010) suggest that although we will have similar characteristics we also have differing needs depending on a range of factors. These include issues of diversity such as gender, ethnicity and class as well as the level of experience, skills and knowledge that students bring to the programme. Depending on our personality types (Rogers and Horrocks, 2010), the attachment experiences we have received in childhood (Howe et al, 1999) and whether we are operating from a secure base (Bowlby, 1973), we may require more or less support in particular areas of development. Therefore, as part of supervision sessions, students can expect their practice educators to ‘tune in’ (Taylor and Devine, 1993) to their needs to assist them to identify previous skills and experience in order to assist them appropriately. Research conducted with social work students by Lefevre (2005) suggested that stu- dent learning is enhanced when students feel listened to and respected by practice educators; therefore, developing a professional relationship to facilitate effective supervision is helpful to both parties. It is important that each party understands what is expected of the other and this needs to be clarified if there is any confusion.

There are many ways that we learn and take in information. Many of us prefer to have information presented to us visually, some of us find if we hear things we retain them better, others prefer to see things written down, and some of us learn best if we can move around and utilise our senses (Fleming, 1995). For some of us, experien- cing something and thinking about it afterwards is the best way that we learn (Kolb, 1984). There are a number of questionnaires that are available to help us under- stand our learning styles (Honey and Mumford, 1992; Fleming and Baume, 2006) and it may be helpful for students to complete one of these and share the results with their practice educator to enable them to tailor their support to help maximise the student’s learning. Although we often have a preferred way of learning, it is important that we have the ability to be receptive to new ways of understanding, because as practitioners we will often work with service users who will have a different way   of learning to ourselves. We may need to present information to service users in a way that best meets their needs; practice educators may model this by encouraging students to be flexible and to begin to adopt new ways of receiving and processing information.

 

Organisations have different policies in relation to the amount of supervision to which employees are entitled. Students may find themselves placed in organisations where supervision is not something that is routinely offered to employees or volunteers. However, qualified social workers employed by a local authority are entitled to regular and consistent supervision (LGA, 2014). As social work students, the frequency of supervision will be determined by the university and negotiated with the placement provider at a Learning Agreement Meeting. In addition to formal supervision sessions, students should be able to ‘check out’ any questions they have in between sessions by utilising the experience and knowledge of other practitioners within the organisation. If students believe they are not getting the length and quality of the supervision they are entitled to as a social work student, they should be encouraged to inform their university tutor who may need to revisit this with the placement provider or practice
educator as part of the Learning Agreement.

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Sample Chapter 1: Generation Y

Here is today’s sneak preview from ‘Innovations in Practice Learning‘. This extract is taken from Chapter 1 ‘Generation Y: Reflections on our current generation of learners’.

Chapter 1 | Generation Y: Reflections on our current generation of learners

Caroline Hills

All supervisors want their student(s) to develop the requisite skills, attitudes and knowledge that are essential for graduating with competency in their profession. Indeed, taking a student on placement is indicative of the supervisor’s desire and commitment to mentoring and guiding the student towards the attainment of these essential skills and attributes. From the student’s perspective, the most successful placements are those in which the student has had a good relationship with their educator and have been facilitated towards independence with some degree of autonomy in that particular work setting. While many studies have reported that the most preferred characteristics of the supervisor are that they are enthusiastic and approachable (Francis et al, 2016; Perram et al, 2016), students have also used the term ‘belonging’ in their descriptions of successful placements (Hills et al, 2016a). ‘Belonging’ is the human need to be accepted, recognised, valued and appreciated by a group (Maslow, 1943). Social scientists have defined ‘belongingness’ as a feeling of being respected and appreciated and having an integral role in an environment, which is achieved through participation in that setting (Anant, 1969). People who experi- ence ‘belongingness’ feel they ‘fit in’ as they feel needed, valued and accepted (Hagerty et al, 1992). However, it is not only the relationship with the supervisor that facilitates this essential feeling; it is also being part of the team, feeling like a colleague – and for students it has been reported as a prerequisite to both enabling and optimising their learning (Levett-Jones and Lathlean, 2008).

In order to create a feeling of ‘belongingness’, the placement must begin with consid- eration of the student’s attributes in relation to their learning needs and preferences. This recognises that we do not all learn in the same way. To begin with acknowledging difference enables individualised learning approaches to be adopted. Considerations such as learning style, gender, cultural and family background, or the presence of a health condition or disability, may be important starting points, in addition to the student’s life and previous work experience relevant to the area of practice (Larkin and Hamilton, 2010). However, age or ‘generation’ has been noted as another factor that can affect student learning in placement (Larkin and Hamilton, 2010).

 

In her book Generation Me (2006), Jean Twenge describes the fundamental premise which underpins a generational perspective:

 

Everyone belongs to a generation. Some people embrace it like a warm familiar blanket, while others prefer not to be lumped in with their age mates. Yet, like it or not, when you are born dictates the culture you will experience. This includes the highs and lows of pop culture, as well as world events, social trends, economic realities, behavioural norms, and ways of seeing the world. The society moulds you when you are young and stays with you the rest of your life.

(Twenge, 2006, p 2)

 

Defining differences in generational cohorts was first proposed by the German soci- ologist Karl Mannheim in the 1950s. Mannheim (1952) postulated that each gen- eration has a similar worldview due to exposure to common historical and social events during their formative years. Every member of  a  specific  generation  will not have experienced the same life events, but they will have a shared awareness which creates a type of ‘generational personality’. This is attributed to belonging to the same generational age group and sharing a common location in the social and historical world. Subsequently, generational classifications have been developed by social commentators in westernised countries. These include the ‘GI Generation’ (born 1901–1924); the ‘Silent Generation’ (1925–1942); the ‘Baby Boomers’ (1943– 1960); ‘Generation X’ (1961–1981); ‘Generation Y’ or ‘Millennials’  (1982–2002)  and ‘Generation Z’ from 2003 onwards (Prendergast, 2009). Supporters of a gener- ational perspective have argued that each generation’s personality has a unique set of characteristics, developed as a result of their experiences during their formative years. These characteristics comprise beliefs, values, attitudes and expectations, which affect behaviour in general, as well as in educational and work settings (Boudreau, 2009; Lavoie-Tremblay et al, 2010).

Foster’s (2013) analysis of the narrative discourse of workers confirmed that being part of one generation or commenting on other generations is a reality in contem- porary society. For example, in this author’s research, participants used language such as ‘that generation’ or ‘the younger generation’ and ‘my generation’, when discussing approaches to doing things differently in the workplace. However, many qualified these stereotypical comments by stating that not everyone of a particular generation fits the generalisation. Foster (2013, p 211) concluded that a generational perspective:

 

… proves particularly useful when people attempt to understand and convey perceived differences in older and younger contemporaries, and the social, cultural, and especially technological changes affecting their lives. It is a one-word lens through which both choice and determinism are rendered visible in the lives of others.

 

Table 1.1 Societal influences during the formative years of generations

 

Baby Boomers (1943–1960) Generation X (1961–1981) Generation Y (1982–2002)
Notable occurrences Civil rights movement Rise of mass media and consumerism, end of Cold War Globalisation, digital age, age of terrorism
Major influences Family and education Media, AIDS, nuclear disasters as well as family and education Witness the growth of millionaires. Digital explosion. Family major influence. ‘You are special’.
Entertainment Television Multiple TV channels, VCR, Nintendo, cinema YouTube, live streaming,  multiple media and

technologies. Social media.

Communication and technology Touch-tone phones, calculators Mobile phones, beepers, laptops, email More complex mobile technologies, WiFi, social media, creation of apps, more interactive video gaming and computer programs. Most homes own a computer.
Spending styles Buy now pay later – with plastic More

cautious –pessimistic

Security

Growth in designer labels and personalised items, ie phone covers
Value Regularity, predictability Fun, want challenges Fun but want to achieve
Work ethic ‘It pays to work hard’ – workaholics Satisfying teamwork Likes teamwork

but wants to achieve. May have multiple careers.

(Adapted from Prendergast, 2009)

You can purchase your copy of ‘Innovations in Practice Learning’ here.

Sample Chapter Four: Assess

Today’s sample extract from Daniel Scott’s book is taken from Chapter 4, ‘Assess’.

Giving feedback

At the summative stage for assessment of learning, you may be using online submission tools such as a VLE assignment upload, Dropbox and Turnitin tools. Often, assignment upload tools will allow you to leave short or long comments and have options for leaving audio and annotated feedback. Annotated feedback is where you can leave interactive place markers such as question marks, ticks and crosses. These are good for drawing learners to your comments for them to act upon. You may even be able to grade work using criteria you have set.

Additionally, you may have the added bonus of having a plagiarism detector (Turnitin offers this feature). Once a piece of work is submitted, the plagiarism software will scan the text for any similarities against other people’s work nationally and internationally who have submitted through that system. Systems like these can also annotate the    text to show where text may have been copied from the original source. This is ideal to prompt a discussion with your learners about plagiarism and originality, and for you to decide the best course of action.

Online submission tools are ideal for providing final feedback on assignment or pro- ject work as you can leave overall comments on the collection over a period of time. However, bodies of work like this may be better presented as ePortfolios, which are a popular way for learners to demonstrate their achievements and competencies, partic- ularly in apprenticeships.

Collecting work-based evidence

Work-based learning is a topic on its own; however, an important issue when embedding eAssessment in the workplace is choosing appropriate digital technology that minimises learner interruption to their work. Work-based learning is naturally focused on ‘real work’ and acquiring industry knowledge, skills and experience, so assessment and feedback should be wrapped around this concept rather than being an intrusive addition. A digital experience for apprenticeships is achievable; however, you should aim to use a wide range of blended and flipped approaches.

When designing for work-based learning, it is highly important to identify on-, off- and near-the-job learning first, then decide on the most suitable digital technology to facilitate each process. Holistic assessment is advantageous here as it allows learners to dem- onstrate different criteria and units at the same time. Designing holistic assessment for work-based learning is time-consuming but is very effective once set up. You  can add     a digital layer to it by using links to the VLE for resources and activities for learners to complete as well as independently submitting evidence. This allows for a wide range of holistic evidence demonstrating both cognitive- and skills-based competencies. It also makes the process a more learner-centred approach and self-directed, allowing you more time to focus on other assessment activities. Visit the links at the end of this chapter for further guidance.

ePortfolios

An ePortfolio is a digital tool or system that enables learners to collect and organise multi- media artefacts such as text, hyperlinks, images, video and audio to present their work and learning experiences. An ePortfolio becomes a product of learning and achievement which learners can build upon throughout their learning journey. ePortfolios support an array  of learning approaches such as reflection, self-directed learning and assessment of and for learning. The main benefits of ePortfolios are that they encourage reflective learning, support personal development, and increase the self-awareness and esteem of learners. This is because the ePortfolio is the product of the learner by ownership by demonstrating their individuality, abilities, aspirations and ambitions, containing learning, knowledge, experiences and achievements. Additionally, an ePortfolio can act as a transferable dem- onstration of achievement if a learner moves to another institution, progresses into higher education or employment. As well as the advantages of digital technology previously men- tioned, the following are significant benefits of using ePortfolios:

» Excellent for encouraging reflection and evaluating own work.

» Supports lifelong learning; the ability to use it before, during and after the programme.

» Can represent different starting points on a learner journey/achievement.

If ePortfolios can be effectively designed and integrated at the centre of a learner’s assessment, it will enable the learner to be more independent and in control of their learning and development. Figure 4.1 illustrates a typical flow of a learner working with an ePortfolio, a process which they can enter at any point. Access a range of available  ePortfolio  tools from C4LPT (http://c4lpt.co.uk/directory-of-learning-performance-tools/notetaking-pim).

Daniel image 5

Figure 4.1. Illustrating how an ePortfolio is constructed.

 

ILT in quality assurance

With the right choice of digital technologies, you can use them to improve quality assurance systems and processes. Table 4.2 describes some ways of using digital technology in your quality assurance practices.

 

Table 4.2. Describing some ways to use digital technology in quality assurance practices.

Digital technology  

Sampling

 

Standardisation

ePortfolios You could ask  assessors  to send you hyperlinks to the ePortfolios which have been selected for sampling. Plus you are not carrying physical files with you.

 

Most ePortfolios have the ability to allow you to  leave  assessor or internal verifier comments

for others to see, but not by learners.

This will allow assessors to remotely check other assessor and internal verifiers’ judgements and feedback wherever you have an internet connection. You

could also create an exemplar ePortfolio for learners to aspire to and for assessors to  know  what to look for.

Online discussion Microsoft Skype (www.skype. com) is a useful tool to keep all assessors and internal verifiers up to date as well as share samples of learners’ work, whether they are on site or not.

 

Each assessor could send you samples of work or use webcam live to show what is being done. It could also provide a really good question-and-answer function for assessors not on site.

All assessors could  join  a webinar and take part in a virtual standardisation meeting with a

discussion and reviewing samples of work and practice.

You can find out more about this book here.

Sample Chapter Three: Deliver and facilitate

The next sneak preview from Daniel Scott’s book ‘Learning Technology’, is taken from Chapter 3 entitled ‘Deliver and facilitate’.

Accessibility and assistive technologies

Accessibility is about ensuring everyone, especially your learners, has access to  resources and services, while ensuring that it is easy for them to obtain and interact with your materials. Accessibility is about providing people with as many options as possible, not so much about providing one form or mode of access. Assistive tech- nology means using tools, systems and devices that remove barriers to learning caused by an impairment. It is not about choosing a specific operating system or device.

To learn effectively you need to be in the right mindset and environment to fully store, recall and interact with knowledge. Due to our own preferences, when we learn in a classroom or online we may prefer a desktop or mobile device to help store knowledge and information. However, using different types of devices can either enable or hinder your process of learning. For example, you may prefer to use a laptop to have more screen space and a keyboard to focus, study and type. Mobile devices may be limiting  for some people who need to use multiple windows and files to research and absorb information or find it difficult to type on  screen.  Using  personal  devices  is  a  great way of embedding assistive technologies because it is likely already mapped to the learner’s preferences. However, be prepared that some learners will not have access    to personal devices or may prefer not to use their own devices on campus. Find out        if you can borrow sufficient devices from your information technology department or library for the lesson or the day so that all learners can be included in any ILT-related activities.

Assistive technologies can help learners to better use digital technologies if they have     a physical or learning disability or have accessibility preferences. Assistive technologies aim to increase access to learning, by improving flexibility and inclusion. In terms of ILT and eLearning, assistive technologies often include screen readers, voice recognition  and screen magnification software. For example, in your VLE you may have the option to change background colour, text size and the ability to speak text aloud on the web page. You can also purchase ergonomic mice and keyboards to suit specific needs to enable greater access to digital technologies.

There is a legal obligation to make learning materials accessible, outlined in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001). Also, your employer may have specific requirements that must be followed to ensure you meet the regulatory requirements as well as your learners’ needs.

Practical Task

» Select an online tool or device you are using or want to use with your learners.

» Consider the opportunities and constraints the ILT tools presents.

» Identify and assess a range of assistive and adaptive technologies to support your learners in their learning.

» Investigate the accessibility options and features that are available to help your learners use the tool or device to fully participate in the learning activity.

It is also important to consider accessibility when presenting your materials electroni- cally. The following are some suggestions you could follow in the planning and designing of your teaching activities and resources.

» Ensure the format and layout of your materials are clear, concise and consistent. Information should be appropriately presented so that learners can navigate it easily.

» Make alternate versions of your materials available to your learners, for example, if using Microsoft PowerPoint. Make video, PDF and Microsoft Word documents available with accessibility options on, such as the ‘navigation pane’, to increase readability.

» Ensure that relevant software is installed on the computers and devices and that it works. This will reduce time and frustration for you and learners trying to solve these problems during the session.

» Use appropriate sans-serif fonts such as Arial and styles to increase readability.

» Choose appropriate colours: be aware of any learners that have visual impairments, don’t use difficult-to-read colours like yellow, and ensure there is sufficient contrast between background colours and text.

» Ensure that any images you use have descriptions attached to them (alternative text). This will mean that the text description you’ve added will be read out to anyone using a screen reader.

» All diagrams and tables are labelled.

»  Add descriptive text to hyperlinks, rather than saying ‘click here’ as the link may not  be visible to some people.

The ‘Accessibility Checker’ feature in Microsoft applications is useful to help you identify any areas for consideration. You may want to consider the conditions that Figure 3.5 illustrates and perhaps select and implement an appropriate mix of text, images, audio, video and interactions to meet the wider needs of your learners – it’s about being inclu- sive by design.

If you would like to gain a greater understanding of accessibility and assistive technolo- gies, access the following links to free courses and resources.

» OpenLearn – Introduction to cyber security: Stay safe online – www.open.edu/ openlearn/science-maths-technology/introduction-cyber-security-stay-safe-online/ content-section-overview

Daniel Picture 4

Figure 3.5. Images adapted from ‘Accessibility Issues in Online Learning’ webinar from Jisc’s Alistair McNaught on 23 October 2015.

» OpenLearn – Accessibility of eLearning – www.open.edu/openlearn/education- development/education-careers/accessibility-elearning/content-section-0

» OpenLearn – Assistive technologies and online learning – www.open.edu/openlearn/ education-development/assistive-technologies-and-online-learning/content-section-0

» FutureLearn – Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society – www.futurelearn.com/courses/digital-accessibility

For more information and guidance on using tools to create digital activities and resources while maintaining accessibility and promoting inclusivity, see Jisc’s guides: www.jisc. ac.uk/guides/using-assistive-and-accessible-technology-in-teaching-and-learning and www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/meeting-the-requirements-of-learners-with-special-educational- needs or Dyslexia Action: www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk

Get your copy of Daniel’s book here.

Working with Family Carers: An Insight

In light of the recent publication of her book Working with Family Carers, Dr Valerie Gant, University of Chester, reflects how the summer holiday can be a period of stress rather than relaxation for carers.

As the holiday period reaches its end and we continue to bathe in the sunshine, I think again about issues faced by many carers.

While the six-week school break is seen as a welcome relief for teachers and staff, it is similarly often a cause of anxiety and stress for pupils with severe learning difficulties and their parents/carers.

Changes in routine (and weather) can be incredibly difficult to navigate. It is of course not just school-age children and their family carers who struggle with those intensifying summertime pressures…

Light nights and intense heat can make caring more difficult for older adults and also for those caring for people with dementia.

For those carers able to afford a holiday – note the word ‘holiday’ not ‘break’ – a change of scene is not necessarily as good as a rest.

Researching for my book Working with Family Carers, I was privileged to speak to many family carers as well as people in receipt of family care. It soon became apparent that it is the ordinary, taken-for-granted activities, holidays and summer days that are the most challenging to navigate.

Helena Herklots, the outgoing CEO at Carers UK, recently suggested there is evidence of the carers movement growing in momentum, I would like to think this is the case and that support for carers will be a year round activity, not just one marked by ‘Carers Week; or ‘Carers Right’s Day’.

As a parent-carer myself, I believe such recognition, acknowledgement and hopefully support, when needed, needs to be an ongoing activity and not just a seasonal event.

Roll on September!

You can find more about informal caring in Valerie’s book and see our other titles here.

 

The W word: Witchcraft labelling and child safeguarding in social work practice.

We are very proud to have published an important new title, The W Word: Witchcraft labelling and child safeguarding in social work practice by Prospera Tedam and Awura Adjoa. In this post Prospera and Awura outline their reasons for writing the book and the approach it takes.

We are delighted to see our book published and wanted to write this first blog to reiterate our commitment to halting the practice of witchcraft labelling which we know is ongoing in some of our communities. In the last year, we have continually reflected on Awura Adjoa’s childhood experiences and considered how things may otherwise have been for her.

Our motivation to write this book emerged from our shared desire to expose the practice of witchcraft labelling and the impact on its victims. We outlined the psychological, emotional and physical impact on Awura Adjoa and examined the ways in which her migration and family dynamics placed her in a vulnerable position and open to witchcraft labelling.

We were particularly concern about the widely held view that witchcraft labelling is a recent phenomenon in England and sought to explain how this form of child abuse is often hidden and silenced within communities and in families. We make the case for a more robust framework for assessing families where witchcraft labelling may be occurring.

We appreciate that the book makes difficult reading in parts, due to the honest and deeply concerning narrative presented by Awura Adjoa, however we felt there was no way to present this information to the audience for whom it is intended. Awura Adjoa would like to see parents and families engage with this book in order to evaluate their own parenting particularly if they hold beliefs about the presence of witchcraft.

We felt that this book would provide social workers and child safeguarding practitioners with additional insight into this form of abuse and develop their skills in identifying, assessing and intervening in families where children have been labelled or are at risk of witchcraft labelling.

A prominent theme in the book is the role of the faith leader or pastor in the labelling process. Awura Adjoa essentially had two pastors determine her fate- the one who labelled and the one who cleared her. Conversations must be ongoing with faith groups and leaders if we are hoping to address this growing issue.

The role of the school and educational establishments is also considered in the book, particularly around what could have been done to identify that Awura Adjoa was at risk at home and within her community.

The need to understand complex family forms and dynamics is another key area we wanted to bring to the attention of readers. Complex family systems can impact on the effectiveness of any intervention with and for children who may have been labelled.

The 3 main arguments proposed by the book are:

  • Witchcraft labelling in England is not new. It is a real and present concern among some communities and within some faith groups.
  • There are multiple actors associated with this form of child abuse. It is never a ‘secret’ and members of the family and community will be aware of the accusations and label.
  • Witchcraft labelling requires intervention from child care practitioners who are culturally aware and sensitive, non- oppressive and who understand the complexities of working cross-culturally.

Gay (2010) suggests that stories are told for multiple purposes- to entertain, educate and inform or to evoke emotion. The W word is by no means entertainment. It will evoke various emotions as it did for us as the authors and its primary aim is to educate and inform. Consequently, we make no apology for the content, it is Awura Adjoa’s lived experience and needed to be told in the way that is has.

Awura and Prospera

May is Mental Health Month

Good Morning!

Mental Health has recently, and rightly so, been the topic of hot discussion and debate. People are starting to research, understand and evaluate mental health, albeit with difficulty, to try and really help sufferers.

May is Mental Health Awareness month and we want to help shine a light on something that has been kept in the dark for a very long time.

Steven Walker, in the book ‘Modern Mental Health‘, has put together a series of mental illness accounts in order to offer an alternative and thought-provoking perspective. In aid of this month’s efforts here is an extract from Hannah Walker’s story- the full account is available here.

modernmentalhealth-web

Part One – The Human in the System

Chapter 1: A Survivor’s Story

By Hannah Walker

Introduction

My name is Hannah and I’m a survivor of the military mental health system, the NHS mental health system and a number of psychiatrists.  I suffer from bipolar disorder and PTSD, and I was diagnosed twenty years ago.  In this chapter, I will tell you some of my story.

I was adopted at 4 months into a loving upper middle class family who lived on the Isle of Wight.  I have a sister, also adopted, who is six years younger than I am.  Neither of us has ever wanted to trace our biological parents, because we were happy at home and didn’t feel the need to go meddling.  Both our adoptive parents are now dead, but they would have been quite happy had we wanted to seek our real mothers, but we thought not.  No point.

I went to the local grammar school, and left at the age of 18 having been Head Girl and having collected a few O and A levels – nothing spectacular.  When I was in the Upper Sixth, my best friend died; I later discovered that she had committed suicide.  I had the first of what were to be many, many episodes of mania and depression after that event and had some time off school.  The episode was curious – I didn’t know what was happening to me and didn’t really have the words to explain it to the GP.  All I could tell him was that all the colours went bright outside, and I felt a rush of panic and fear as though I could no longer remain alive and deal with it.  In that instant, I contemplated taking an overdose of painkillers – not so that I would die, but so that I could become unconscious and not have to feel the pain.  I couldn’t be alone, but I couldn’t tell anyone what I was feeling as it was impossible to describe.  The only time I felt “well” was when I was driving a car.  I slept with the light on as I couldn’t bear to be alone in the dark with just my thoughts for company.

My parents hadn’t any idea of what to do with me, so they sent me to my GP, and I tried to explain what had happened to me, without much success.  He diagnosed an extreme grief reaction, without much in the way of a clue as to my illness.  I became even more depressed and started self harming, making up the most outrageous stories as to how I had cut myself.  I spent hours with razor blades, slashing my arms to pieces, and telling the A&E department that I had fallen through windows/dropped a glass which had shattered/been hit by a hockey ball.  No one helped.  No one asked me if I was OK – not even the medics who assiduously stitched me up every time.  I was sent to an Educational Psychologist, but refused to talk to her as she had hinted to me that she thought I was self harming.  Far too ashamed to admit it, I reiterated my stories and told her that I was just very accident prone.  She gave up.

I pulled myself together and carried on as though nothing had happened, which sowed the seeds of later episodes

Please read the rest of the account here for FREE.

If you have a story you’d like to share then please do get in contact. You can reach me at hannah@criticalpublishing.com

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