Living Room Conversations Adaptations – Mental Health

Living Room Conversations are being used in ways we never imagined and we are fascinated! This is the glorious thing about open source projects, users adapt materials to better fit their needs and from these experiences we all learn.

This year I’ve been privileged to observe Community Living Room Conversations about mental health. This particular variant embraced Living Room Conversations ground rules and has adapted the process to fit a bigger set of participants. The Contra Costa Health Services Division used Living Room Conversations as a way to enable mental health consumers, providers and the families of consumers to hear about each other's experiences with the goal of building trust and improving services.

Attending these conversations as an observer I’ve learned about alternatives to traditional co-hosting. These thoughtfully constructed conversations allowed me to hear parents talk about their beloved adult children. One father brought pictures of his daughter at 14, 15 and 16. He made it clear that yes his daughter has a diagnosis of schizophrenia and at times lives in a different reality, she is also a human being that is loved and must be treated with respect. One of the patients talked about being in prison. He explained that prisoners with mental illnesses are targets, and not just for other inmates. We all agree that this must stop. The service providers talked about their efforts to meet the needs of the people they are trying to serve, inmates being released without their medications, the struggle to follow up when the people they are serving are homeless and trying to help people in their care get the services they need when the system makes it so very hard to navigate.

We learned that everyone wants better outcomes and the path to that destination is not clear. This said, building trust to collaborate more effectively and better understanding the challenges is a valuable step toward improving the system.