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Words of reflection from #LGE2018

Hi…..I’m Tomi Platts. The next question is usually ‘what do I do’? Technically, I work as a Head of Portfolio for Essex County Council. The reality of what I do is that I work with a team of people to try and deliver changes which improve services for our residents.

When I was asked to participate in LGE2018 I didn’t really know what to expect. I found the first session in Southend (July 2018) intriguing and I started to think about some of the facts and insight which had been shared over those two days. Two in particular stayed with me – the rise of county lines in Essex and the impact of poor mental health. Weeks on, I couldn’t forget something I had heard…..1 in 4 people suffer from poor mental health at a point in their lives.

Fast forward to January 2019 and our small team of four (Paul Nagle and Tracey Harman (Essex Police); Luke McKenzie (Rochford District Council) and myself) were focused on mental health, specifically trying to understand the sorts of interventions which would be most effective in supporting those impacted by mental ill-health (focusing on those at the lower end of need).

As a team, we put ourselves out there. We’d made new relationships through LGE2018 and through these we heard people’s stories. From service users, commissioners, public, voluntary sector and providers, they trusted us with their stories and this was a privilege. Speaking honestly, it was hard and sometimes uncomfortable – this was new to us, we are not the experts.

Still, based on those interviews and research, we had an idea of the interventions and support which really made a difference and we held on the voices of those who shared their stories. But our question was….what next? What do we do next?

The sessions on public narrative were a revelation to me.  I know why I am passionate about good mental health but motivating people to care, to take action is one of the most important (and challenging) aspects of leadership. That is the way change happens, at all levels.

The public narrative sessions helped us to tell their story and ours, to understand  how to motivate you to care and to take action.  Because that is the way change happens, at all levels. What is the story we wanted to tell? To sum it up…our  LGE2018 interviews told us that:

  • The most effective thing we can do is create an environment which enables and encourages conversations about mental health. 
  • You don’t have to be a specialist to make a difference – acceptance and awareness came out across all our interviews
  • As employers you have a role in raising awareness – not necessarily prescribing the solution
  • Most importantly, a stark reminder of the Power of One and the difference one person can make

To #LGE2019 participants, I guess my advice to you would be….

Choose your tribe, choose your ‘subject’ carefully. It really is the relationships that make all the difference because it can be really uncomfortable. It gets tough. Sometimes I didn’t know what to expect (except the unexpected). As it turns out, that sums up system change pretty well. You will sometimes feel as if you are ‘mirroring’ the system you’re trying to affect or change.

That is why it is important to be with people who will pull you through it (and you will do the same for them). That is why it is important to choose a topic that you are passionate about; because when it gets hard (and it will); it is that passion and your tribe that will pull you through.

Good luck and enjoy!

James Sinclair and Tomi Platts (right)