Coproduction week 2024 – Blog 1

July 01, 2024

Welcome to Coproduction Week 2024! This year, the topic is ‘coproduction – what is missing?’. Is it equity of involvement, funding, the will to pursue it, joined-up working or some of the myriad other issues that effect our community. This week we hope to explore these issues and more.

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are going to post a blog from one of the MEAM Expert Panel looking at what coproduction has meant to them. On the days between I will post a question for discussion with MEAM Approach network members in our Mighty Networks platform.

Have a great coproduced week,

Ant Pickup (MEAM Involvement and Inclusion Manager)

A lived experience personal account about personal and system transformation through becoming trauma-informed

A blog by Fernando de Rivas, Expert by Experience with MEAM

The systems we have inherited from previous generations treat service users with an understanding of human nature that will leave no room for our carry-on trauma to be seen and appropriately acknowledged, let alone start the process of healing.

The system, by default, prioritises the survival of the ideas that gave birth to its design in the first place. According to that design, we are processed by it as a bundle of problems that must be separately treated, as if there were no common explanations articulating your entire experience of difficulties, or tools to look at your overall situation cohesively in a rational way.

In my experience, being treated like that by the wider system gives you a long trail of recurring fragmented experiences of yourself as a person. As result, you start despising and stigmatising your own symptoms and manifestations of trauma, and you end up seeing yourself as the all-encompassing problem. Enduring this fragmented state within and outside yourself only strengthens the trauma circuits and networks connecting your body, mind and behaviours, making dysfunction more firmly ingrained in your default daily functioning.

For me this default trauma response and re-enactment circuitry only started to change very gradually as I was being exposed to the theory of trauma and experiencing it in practice through being on the receiving end of trauma-informed approaches. These were applied in first person to me by the leading members, as well as by other lived-experience peers, in different trauma-informed co-production teams I have been working with over the last couple of years.

The process of rebuilding your brain and your understanding of who you are through the lenses of trauma theory doesn’t just happen in one’s own mind, like learning to apply a new mathematical formula would. You need reinforcement in your daily life from other people who apply trauma-informed approaches in their interactions with you. Only then can this new understanding of yourself be allowed to flow out of you and into the way how you connect with others, relate, and learn to work with in practice. All this learning and practice can then be applied to your relationship with yourself more easily. This behavioural and relational change is what helps the most to gradually change the settings of the default functioning of your own internal system, historically distorted by the cumulative consequences of untreated trauma.

The importance of gradually changing the relational style within organisations is crucial to achieve the outcomes I am describing. Even when the appropriate discussions have started within an organisation, the ideas about how to be trauma-informed cannot be truly transformative if they’re absorbed only at a theoretical level. Real charge at a structural level, both personal and collective, can only happen when we have an ordinary daily practice of applying trauma-informed approaches to the small nuances of the interactions with one another, as well as with ourselves.

Over the last 2 1/2 years I’ve experienced great improvement in my health, functioning and wellbeing. I’m waiting for appropriate trauma treatment on the NHS, and I have great hopes that their help will assist my healing for years to come. However, in all this time of waiting for professional help, the practical intervention that has been helping me heal my trauma has been, yes, my own efforts to apply this learning to myself but, mainly, the power of belonging to a community of learning and practice.

Powerful therapeutic outcomes can and do manifest through the collective focus on exploring the nature of trauma in individuals’ lives, and on learning how to best relate and respond to one another while we’re working together. From there, it’s much easier to extrapolate and think how we could improve the way we interact at all the practical levels that are possible between service users, service providers, organisations and institutions.

I believe the practice of trauma-informed approaches can bring about an extraordinary improvement in the outcomes of the systems we work with, as well as in the heath, wellbeing and social indicators of everyone involved. We will transform our society in profound ways by truly applying in practice this new conceptual framework about the trauma mechanisms of our core human nature and about the universal essential need for safe and healthy human interactions. It has already been transforming me, and finally after 30 years of being trapped in a downward spiral of ever worsening health and social crises, I can say I’m breaking free from it and starting to flourish as a human being.

Every service user, client or member of any organisation deserves to be treated according to the principles of trauma-informed practice. It’s about the dignity of the human beings we interact with. Any less than a genuine effort to honour our wounds and wound-related responses keeps reinforcing previous traumatisation. That is why trauma is so ubiquitous and remains unresolved in most cases. And that is why this situation requires our full attention and commitment.

Our systems must be designed to support the healing and flourishing of the population by incorporating the new wisdom into our humanity that the understanding of trauma provides. We deserve that individually, but we also deserve that communally, as a society. We only need to put the time, effort and practice in, and this most desired transformation will gradually happen, like it is happening for me at last.