Compassionate Approaches to Mental Health is a one day experiential event  on the 12th of November in Cardiff designed to inform, inspire and empower people living and working with mental distress.

I will be contributing and for more information click on the link above or at the bottom of this text. We’ve gathered influential speakers who are passionate about changing the script around mental health, challenging stigma and raising expectations.

Our aim is to bring together people and families with personal experience of mental health issues, frontline staff, managers, clinicians, policymakers and Third Sector staff, to introduce and discuss a range of therapeutic approaches that move beyond a medical model.

Together we’ll explore emerging themes in mental health, including:
•Compassion, mindfulness and Open Dialogue
•How to exercise our inner strength to resource ourselves and others
•Finding meaning in mental distress and psychosis
•Breakdown as opportunity for breakthrough and growth
•Enabling the shift towards a more democratic approach, that focuses on the whole person and building resilience
•Building equity and understanding between people delivering mental health services and those with lived experience
•How we form authentic relationships, learn to listen deeply, and feel safe to share our difficulties
•Creating safe healing spaces in our services and communities, for people to talk about suicidal thoughts

Compassion – towards self and others – is a skill that can be learned. Our experienced teachers will guide you in some basic practices, and share their personal stories of mental distress and recovery.

Walk away with
•Inspiration about the possibility of recovery from listening to other people’s stories
•New ways to resource ourselves & others by building resilience and self compassion
•Confidence to transform difficult emotions and calm our inner critic
•Lessons in listening deeply and developing presence
•Understanding the value of finding meaning and purpose in mental health crisis
•Why compassion, trust and connection is so important for service improvement

Why should you attend?

We’ll be exchanging ideas, lessons learned and best practices with thought leaders and experts by experience. All involved are already influencing change in their field. There will be pauses during the day for reflection and feedback, and your participation is valued.

What it isn’t

This isn’t an anti-psychiatry event, or one that proposes a right way to recovery, self management or service improvement. But – along with many other critical voices – we are calling for a radical shift in the way people understand and approach mental health issues.

Our goal is to be part of the global call for better, safer mental health services for all. We hope to do this by building bridges and growing understanding that people in crisis need more than just medicine. Feeling connected, finding meaning in crisis, and sharing tools for stability are all vital for a whole person approach.

There needs to be better funding for mental health services in all settings, and there will be opportunities during the day to share ideas for the future.  Our hope is that we can all move forward together into a more collaborative, compassionate chapter. As one of our Speakers, Elisabeth Svanholmer, says:

My truth is A truth, not THE truth
I share my truth
in the hope that you will find your truth
and share it with me.
Then maybe we can get excited
about the things we have in common
but more importantly
we might learn something
from our differences.
My truth is that there is no truth
just endless possibilities

In Part One of this blog I gave an introduction to Nonviolent communication (NVC). In this second part I look at how I've found it helpful in mental health settings...

by Rufus May & Elisabeth Svanholmer  9/2/16

A little over a year after the publishing of the BPS Understanding psychosis report we want to reflect on what might happen when we try to get closer to the experience of 'psychosis'.

In November 2014 The British Psychological Society published a report Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia (Rufus was a contributor). Its sub-heading was: 'Why people sometimes hear voices, believe things others find strange or appear out of touch with reality'. 

I want to tell you about a magical tool I use particularly for navigating challenging situations. Its called Non violent communication (NVC). Its a way of understanding and communicating that I've found particularly useful in situations of conflict. I've hyped it up in the first sentence as a magical tool but like all useful things, its got its limitations too. I guess the key is how and when to use it.  So what am I talking about?

NVC which was developed by a psychologist called Marshall Rosenberg, asks us to focus on people's underlying feelings and needs behind their words and actions.  Classically in NVC we are asked to divide any situation we find ourselves in into four things (1.) The facts about the situation; (2.) What we feel; (3.) What we need or value that lies behind our feeling and (4.) What request we might want to make of ourselves or others.

Mindfulness & Mental health
A one day training course with
Rufus May & Elisabeth Svanholmer

Friday 18th Of March, 9.30 -4.00pm @ 7 King's Bench Street London, SE1 0QX, organised in partnership with St. Mungo's

Mindfulness is increasingly being used in mental health services. This workshop will look at flexible ways to use mindfulness with individuals and in groups.

The day will be a chance to try out a range of exercises and consider:

  • Mindfulness attitudes, ways to be with the present moment as it unfolds
  • Mindfulness in everyday life, mindful activity, mindful movement, mindful breathing
  • Using mindfulness supporting people
  • Mindful listening skills
  • Mindful approaches to working with anger and aggression
  • Mindfulness with other extreme states of mind (strong fears, voices, visions etc)
  • Grounding exercises and techniques and when mindfulness is not helpful

Rufus May has worked as a clinical psychologist in the NHS for 19 years. He has been practising mindfulness for the last ten years and is interested in holistic approaches to psychosis and healing from trauma. He has recently been supporting inpatient settings to use mindfulness. See:
Elisabeth Svanholmer has worked as a speaker, trainer and organiser with the Danish Hearing Voices Network since 2006. She has many years of personal experience using bodywork and mindfulness with distress, overwhelm and hearing voices. See:
Price: Waged: £70  Concessions: £35  Please note that lunch is not provided. To book a place email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or phone 07926685432


To dissociate is to let go of an awareness, to disconnect our attention from one thing and focus on another. On a mild level we all dissociate frequently throughout the day shifting our awareness from  thoughts to senses and back again. Some of it is conscious, some of it habitual.  Its a common strategy to deliberately dissociate from uncomfortable feelings by distracting ourselves. Click here to read on...

By Elisabeth Svanholmer (see more at Living life gently )

I used to live in a state of constant overwhelm and anxiety.

Only I didn’t know it at the time, because it was all I knew. I suspected something was wrong; the suicidal yearnings and impulses to self-harm were good tell tell signs, but I didn’t understand them as such. I thought I was being selfish and attention seeking and I did what I could to try and control these shameful things that lived inside me.

The British Psychological society report 'Understanding psychosis and schizophrenia' is available free here

It looks at why people sometimes hear voices, believe things that others find strange, or appear out of touch with reality …and what can help.

Includes a questioning approach to the diagnosis of schizophrenia and evidence that suggests psychotic experiences are on a conitnuum with other psychological experiences.