Flick Grey, a researcher and mental health consultant, has been awarded the 2015 SANE Australia Hocking Fellowship to investigate a model known as ‘Open Dialogue’.
The model addresses the exclusion and frustration that can occur when someone experiencing a mental health crisis is left out of conversations about their health. It emphasises dialogue between the person at the centre of the crisis and their ‘network’ – be they their friends, family or other support people – with the assistance of clinical professionals such as psychiatrists.
‘Too often the person in crisis is removed from their social network and treated in isolation,’ explains Flick Grey. ‘Open Dialogue is about taking the time to bring all the people together to really listen to everyone’s perspective. A key idea is to trust the dialogue; to trust that new and useful perspectives on the situation will emerge.’
The approach originated in Finland some 30 years ago and is currently being trialled in several countries including Germany, the UK and the US.
According to the CEO of SANE Australia, Jack Heath, researching the Open Dialogue model is a perfect fit for the mental health charity’s Fellowship.
‘The Hocking Fellowship aims to promote better mental health of Australians through advancing the public understanding of mental illness, of how treatment and support can be improved, and how all those affected, including family and friends, can be empowered to help themselves.
‘Open Dialogue has shown impressive outcomes for people’s recovery including reduced rates of hospitalisation, reduction in psychotic symptoms and significant increases in family involvement,’ says Heath.
‘In Australia the principles of Open Dialogue are being adopted, but in a somewhat ad hoc way. This project will explore international experiences including, in many cases, the shift away from costly hospitalisations.
‘It’s not necessarily against medication or diagnosis or hospitalisation, but it doesn’t start or end there. In Open Dialogue, families and networks find new ways of responding together,’ explains Ms Grey.
Through the Fellowship Ms Grey will explore international experiences with a focus on relevance to the Australian context and the integration of peer workers into Open Dialogue. She will visit key sites including Kerapoudas Hospital in Finland, the Parachute Project in New York, the Institute for Dialogic Practice in Massachusetts, as well as projects in the UK and Germany.
The Hocking Fellowship celebrates the contribution of Barbara Hocking OAM (Executive Director of SANE Australia 1995-2012) in her work towards a better life for all people affected by mental illness.
Flick Grey is a researcher, trainer and consultant in mental health, working from a lived experience and trauma-informed perspective. She is currently studying the first English-language 3 year course in Open Dialogue in the UK.