Introducing Open Talk

Written by Amy, Common Room Advisor

The Open Talk team are really excited to launch our new website, www.opentalk.info which includes a resource bank for mental health professionals. Open Talk is a project which works with mental health professionals to encourage collaborative decision-making with children and young people. We offer in house training to children and young people’s mental health services of all shapes and sizes.

Working in the field of child health and disability, I’m hugely aware of the amount of discussion, innovation and decision-making that goes into looking after children and young people. The problem is, a lot of it happens without the person we are talking about being present. Open Talk does an amazing job of challenging this, both in how it was developed, how it is delivered and the message that we send out. It is a project that takes the saying ‘don’t talk about me without me’ to heart.

The training days revolve around the Open Talk decision-making model which seems like simple common sense. Essentially, it is; however we know how hard it can be to think about collaborative decision-making in the ‘real world’, where there are so many other things pulling for professional’s attention and where decisions are complex.  The Open Talk decision-making model is a practical framework to enable us to reflect on how we explicitly involve young people in decisions about their care.  Throughout the day, we bring the model to life, thinking about how it can be used in practice to help us to navigate more complex decision-making scenarios through worked examples, tips, and even role plays (which are not as scary as they sound!). At the training, we hope to support people to learn from each other, giving them (sometimes rare) breathing space and a chance to think about their practice as a team.

Young adults like me have been involved in everything about the project. We were involved in the first discussions that bought the idea about, and our experience and expertise has fed into the development of the Open Talk model, the resources we use, and the way the day is run. There are also young adults with experience of using health services there at every training day; not to stand up and tell their story to heartfelt applause, but to be an integral part of the team. We deliver content, field questions and facilitate difficult discussions about challenging decision-making scenarios on the day, just like every other member of the training team.

We hope that this sends out a wider message; children and young people with mental health problems can be meaningfully involved in things that regard them. For some young people, this won’t be co-delivering training. It might be deciding how they are going to move to a seclusion room, or understanding why they have to stay in hospital. The message of Open Talk is that these processes are still immensely important.