Survivor Researcher Anand Pattni wishes to work collabiratively towards an alternative and holistic approach to wellbeing. You can contact Anand to take part in his project. His contact details are at the end of the blog.

I still find it astonishing that yoga or its highly effective breathing techniques aren't offered as a part of mental health care. It's a cheap, widely used, well founded and highly effective means of self management.  Another example is regular jogging (or cardio) which is an effective mood regulator and enhancer.

I chose two really basic examples on purpose to make a point: if you just write 'exercise is good for wellbeing' on a glossy poster it will just get ignored, but if you offer more weight and precision by offering specially developed routines that are targeted at specific groups then you have a tool of substance. We know it works, but if we had a better handle on what works best then we could promote the idea a bit more.

Exercise is just one type of what I call ‘physiological tools’.  Other examples include complementary medications, easy meditative techniques, head massage, nutrition and so on. These types of methods are really useful because they’re uncomplicated and work from the bottom up – they bring some mental and emotional stability, which helps us to apply ourselves to more top-down psychological, social or spiritual matters. A wellbeing framework could offer many variations across the physiological, psychological, social and spiritual spectrum. It would also include detailed service descriptions and alternative approaches or therapeutic models of care such as a trauma informed approach.

When we put all these different things together then care becomes genuinely holistic, and the result becomes greater than the sum of its parts.  I readily acknowledge that terms such as ‘holistic’ and ‘wellbeing’ can be esoteric, vague and poorly targeted concepts, but they do offer a sense of care that is sorely missed and difficult to produce in a clinical environment. It’s also true to say that service users and providers have had little exposure to an alternative approach, and many who dabbled may have been disappointed by the results.  That’s why we need a well informed, comprehensive and pragmatic framework – to inform choice and strengthen methods, tools and services.

We also need it to reduce inequality – quite frankly, this type of care is often over-hyped and over-sold by ‘wellbeing’ businesses and experts, who are offering a fragmented approach using poorly targeted & mildly effective methods - and as a result many people are priced out of basic help.  Lots of simple practices can be made more effective if we take a highly pragmatic, collaborative approach. The resulting framework can then be administered quite freely, which offers easy access to ‘proper’ self management guidance and it helps services to be provided at a much lesser cost.

If we are going to create such a framework, I would say we need to be more outward looking in doing so. The area of ‘mental health’ misses the supposed 75% who don’t get any treatment, or those who used services for a time then fell away, and those who really needed help but realised that the approach used by current services was wholly inadequate in meeting their needs. Many of us have suffered greatly, but perhaps we were lucky enough to find alternatives and make that journey. Our suffering remains unrecognised, as if it weren’t quite as great as those within services. But we know what it’s like, to be opened up and exposed – the sheer depth of it, all those layers of humanity, the shame of losing a grip on your own mind, the resultant humility which illuminates, then you see too much and too little in a world of contradictions.

So, to recap, what exactly is this alternative (& holistic) framework? Put simply, it’s just a structured collection of self-management tools, interventions, service descriptions and alternative models or approaches to care. It will offer service users, providers, and the general public more choice and well informed access to alternative methods and approaches. The hope is that such a framework should be used as the basis of a wellbeing network that collectively supports an individual care plan.

You can see a model of care that I have been working on here.

It needs updating to reflect points I have made here but it’s a just an effort to start the conversation.

I propose that an alternative framework already exists and is being used all the time, but it needs to be teased out and explicitly defined.  This will require an ongoing collaborative effort from service users, experts, professionals and those already using alternative means (together we can create something special).

How can you help?

If you have any experience of using alternative/holistic methods, or know of any alternative services or approaches, I would really like to hear from you.

They don’t have to be ‘interventions’ in the strict sense – it could just be a little thing that you feel is noteworthy (eg. walking in nature).

Possible examples of alternative/holistic methods might be:

Physiological: yoga, yogic breathing techniques, cardio (eg Running), Meditative practices, complementary medicine, head massage, acupuncture, sleep, nutritional supplements, diet, effects of smoking/alcohol/drugs, allergies and toxins.

Psychological: Positive psychology, mindfulness, any type of cognitive approach, thinking styles, other people’s narratives, anything that helps you to find perspective.

Social: hobbies, interests, work, learning, art, relationships, sports, fun and laughter, any community type service.

Spiritual (whether religious or non religious): ‘spiritual’ practice can be a walk in nature or more conventional like prayer, finding hope, finding personal ‘inner space’, any particular practice that you find to be healing.

Alternative Approaches to mental health care: eg trauma informed model.

Alternative services: eg. sporting recovery

If you have multiple examples, for each example can you:

    Briefly summarise the method, service or approach
    Was there anything specific about the way you used it (eg, did you personalise it?).
    Did it make a difference to your wellbeing (whether positive or not) can you say how or

in what way?

I’ve taken a liberty of adding these questions about psychiatric medication – feel free to skip them if you’d rather not answer:

    If these methods helped you to reduce the amount of medication can you say how?
    Do you think psychiatric medication helps, frustrates (or both) when applying yourself

to these alternatives. Can you describe how?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Anand Pattni.

[email protected]