Hyphen Projects

Summarised below are some of the projects in which Hyphen-21 has been involved over the years. All but one come under the heading of mental health work and will soon be covered in more detail in a website devoted entirely to mental health. That site will be called “Better Mental Health Working.”

Poems for…the wall

This project offers poems for display in healthcare waiting rooms, libraries, class-rooms and other settings. The project has been funded by the Arts Council of England, the Poetry Society, the King’s Fund, NHS Estates, the Dept of Health Equality and Human Rights Group, the Baring Foundation, the Foreign Office and the John Lewis Partnership. Many of the poems are bilingual, in celebration of connection through diversity. The poem collections are on display in sites all over the UK and indeed the world. Since 2008, when the project went digital, people have downloaded them in large numbers from the project’s website –  https://poemsforthewall.org  Most of the downloads come from school-teachers, but also librarians and healthcare professionals. 

In 2019, a significant number of the poems were enlarged, printed onto a foamex paperboard material and exhibited in Clifton (Roman Catholic) Cathedral. Some striking photographs of the exhibition can be found here. The pictures convey well both the quality of the poems available, and their power.

Mental Health Ward Round Code of Professional Conduct 

Ward rounds can be deeply intimidating. The experience can be especially traumatic for people with mental health problems. The code referred to here took years to put together. It was devised with the classic mental health ward round in mind, which could (and still can ?) involve up to a dozen mental health professionals surrounding a single disturbed person in a room. The code sets out guidelines for how to make the ward round and similar meetings more sensitive and respectful. It was implemented in at least one North London NHS mental health Trust, though how consistently and effectively was always open to question. The code was published in the magazine Openmind and presented to the all-party parliamentary group for mental health in Portcullis House, winning the group’s support ;  it was later recognised as good practice by the Department of Health and by the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE). Here is a copy of the code. Here is a copy of a leaflet we composed for handing out to hospital patients.

Consulting with the Users of Mental Health Care Services

For years now, all care organisations have been required to consult with the users of their services at every level. But how to do this in a way that is both real, skillful, respectful and constructive ? How can a rushed and over-stretched manager consult with due care ?  How competently a service “consults” with the people it serves is, in many ways, a measure of how competent a service is. The subject is complex and worthy of close attention. It will be covered extensively on the new site. In the meantime here is a brief article on the subject published years ago in “Openmind.”

Service User Involvement in Staff Recruitment

Involvement in staff recruitment is a valid and effective way for service users to influence service quality. The model proposed by Hyphen-21 involves a separate user panel and assesses senior staff on their relationship skills, in the here and now, as directly experienced and observed in the interview. The approach was commended by the Commission for Health Improvement and an article describing the model was published by the magazine “OpenMind.”  Here is a short working paper describing the model in more detail. The paper was used as the basis for introducing this approach to Westminster’s mental health services some years ago.

Morale in Care Organisations

Morale in care services is a central issue, of course. “Care” cannot be turned on like a tap. Nor will it flourish if care workers are treated by their managers just as mechanical instruments or by Society as convenient scapegoats for every painful event that happens. Hyphen-21 produced a paper on this subject over 20 years ago. The paper was supported in principle by Dr Peter Carter, later to become Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing. The paper will be reviewed and revised and uploaded onto the new mental health site when that finally emerges. Here is the present version.

Shared Care Recording

The Shared Care Record (or “Home Support Book”, or “Patient-Held Record” ) offers the patient custody and control of his/her own health record. Rogan piloted a mental health version in the mid 1990’s and a year or so later a version for house-bound older people in Kensington. Articles describing the approach were published in OpenMind and in the Nursing Times magazines. We believe the approach can be valuable in the support of people with learning difficulties as well. The approach gives people a sense of ownership and involvement in their care and progress. Their record becomes less “your file on me,” than “my story, with your help.” Various examples of the approach have since gone into circulation, but the idea has still not reached its full potential. It depends a great deal on worker time and worker morale. Computerised recording is not a substitute for this approach, nor does it address many of the important issues raised by recording in general.

Spirituality and Mental Health

Spirituality can be a creative and helpful topic in mental health circles. It offers a different and more normal imagery, often rich. We offer a good paper that explores the subject with profundity and poetry. The writer, Julie Liebrich, gave her permission for Hyphen-21 to publish her paper, presented originally at a World Federation for Mental Health conference. Here it is.

Poetry Workshops for Carers

Creative writing workshops for Carers can be helpful both for mutual support and for expression.  The example that will be given on “Better mental health working” involved a series of poetry workshops for carers in Westminster. It was funded by the King’s Fund and resulted in several poetry readings.

Poem “A Light Summer Dying”

This is a long poem which tells the true story of a death from cancer, not just the way the person at the centre of the experience lived it through, but how her family and community lived it with her. The poem was well received by a significant number of people, including the poets Andrew Motion and Moniza Alvi, but also by priests and hospice workers.  It has  been recited to good effect to Macmillan nurses in training and to social work students on a university course. Due to its subject matter, it is of course not an easy poem to read or to listen to, though readers tend to agree that it is somehow uplifting. It can be found on the right of the home page of Rogan Wolf’s blog at https://roganwolf.com . Click here for some comments it has received.