A client’s perspective on The Royal’s pursuit of hope, access and new possibilities

Peter Winfield
Peter Winfield

For so many of us struggling with mental health challenges a bright future can seem like such a distant possibility it can feel unattainable. For us hope can feel more like false hope, something sold to us that is simply not realistic. Yet, as 2021 comes to a close, real hope, real change is certainly in the air at The Royal. At The Royal hope is much more than a possibility it is a guiding force that drives change and supports the plans that turn hope into a new reality.

I write this as a client of The Royal. Somebody who has suffered mental illness, somebody who continues to cope with it on a daily basis and somebody who has benefited from the care of the wonderful staff at The Royal. In the last two years I have been privileged enough to find myself in a position to give back. I began volunteering at The Royal just as its new strategic plan was unveiled and I have had the good fortune to participate in its unfolding now serving as the vice-chair of the Client Advisory Council.

I can confidently say that as a client I read the article that the CEO Joanne Bezzubetz wrote on 14 December and I feel that pulse of change she wrote about. It is real, our voices as clients are being heard and indeed being considered seriously. Our experience and expertise as clients is sought and responded to in a way that is valued. These are no longer fancy words on paper but are being implemented in earnest.

Our client voices are sought out to the extent that many of us sit not just on advisory councils but on committees and councils with the authority to implement change as part of The Royal team. As an example, I am a co-chair along with a family representative and a staff member on a working group to create a centre of expertise in client and family oriented research in mental health. The members of this working group are researchers, clinicians and staff members some of whom are senior members of the hospital staff. I cannot imagine a client participating in this fashion two years ago.

In the area of mental health research there are now opportunities to participate in more ways than the traditional research participant. We can now participate as advisors and consultants to co-designers and co-leads.  Our voices now contribute to everything from topics being researched to the way research studies are designed, from recruitment to the way the research results are shared. This is all new and it is happening today.

It is indeed an exciting time in mental health care and research and I look forward to being part of the exciting transformation that is happening right now. Importantly if you are a client, a former client or a family member there are opportunities for you to contribute and participate as well.

Peter Winfield
Co-chair, Client and Family-oriented Research Framework Committee 
Vice chair, Client Advisory Council