Although it is still only January, I have been so lucky to be invited to present my research twice within such a short space of time, firstly at the Gender Studies conference, then the Division of Clinical Psychology Annual Conference 2020. This conference was a little different from the typical conferences I attend. As a majority of conferences, I attend have a connection directly to domestic abuse/violence or gender studies; therefore, I was a little anxious due to not having a psychology background, that I would not acknowledge or blend into the fellow professionals there. I am always nervous when it comes to conferences, although I teach, and have presented this research several times, the butterflies remain. I had nothing to worry about, the attendees were very engaging, and I had several conversations throughout the day regarding the domestic abuse research and how my research had made some of the psychologies re-think regarding some of the experiences mentioned by their male clients. Therefore, making me question whether my research question needed to branch out even further and consider psychologies or counsellors, as this was not asked originally in my research, as the original focus was on accident and emergency healthcare professionals and their knowledge of domestic abuse. Yet participants did comment on their experiences when attending other services, such as dentists, pharmacies, their GPs, and walk-in-centres. Therefore if I had asked the question regarding psychologies or counsellors, would there be more information disclosed, will always be a question that remains.
I attend both days of the conference, 22nd, and 23rd January. Several key themes were discussed throughout the day that piqued my interest. One theme that was discussed many times is ACES (adverse childhood experiences) and the link to the potential of poor mental health and how it affects education. I have always found ACES very interesting, due to the number of studies linked to domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Several presentations were very empowering and encouraging to see the development of research in fields that desperately need it. As well as seeing the positive impact these projects have had on people’s lives. One of the projects I am referring to is the homelessness and mental health: setting up a service, focusing on empowering people and improving success rates of placements. Another part of the conference, I found very interesting is ‘Make My City Fair’ focusing on Birmingham, and how it can flourish from poverty. The session reviewed different strategies on how to achieve this, by challenging austerity, and unethical political movement, as well as ensuring people are working together to achieve. Thus, creating a fairer Birmingham.
One of the symposia topics I found interesting was the focus on naming power and power abuses. This focused upon understanding the gender inequalities that have been argued over the years, and whether the Power Threat Meaning Framework can offer psychologies a new approach to understand the social injustices and inequalities one suffers, and being able to re-place into a broader context. Thus, referring to the politics and social determinants of health. The Power Threat Meaning Framework was launched back in 2018, following a five-year project to understand the patterns of distress and the roles of power dynamics. The exciting element of the Power Threat Meaning Framework is that it simply can be applied to anyone, as we all at some stage, we may feel some social and political distress and injustice.
No more case studies, was another enlightening part of the conference, questioning whether authors should be offering their own experiences, rather than depicting someone else’s story or journey. As a researcher, and supervisor of dissertations, often case studies are reviewed, and other people’s stories told by our voice. Therefore, this segment made me re-think whether when telling peoples stories, do researchers do them justice. This presentation focused on the reflection of the process of writing and sharing the author’s own story, their experiences, hopes, fears, and vision. Therefore, leading me to question whether people prefer to be anonymous or to be named and whether there are external factors that influence this decision making. Thus, making me question why there are some stories that I would not feel comfortable sharing, and whether there are fears, that maybe I had not considered before this session. One of the most challenging stories that I have only recently begun to feel comfortable to discuss is my dyslexia, and this comes a year after diagnosis. Although many have been supportive and encouraged me, I had an intern fear of not meeting the expectations of others, as though an overshadowing dark cloud followed me as I re-questioned everything I had previously done. There are some elements to this story; I am still not ready to share, which is why this presentation was so impressionable and has made me re-think my journey. As those who share their stories, often empower others to come forward and seek support.
There were also many posters on display across the two days, which were fascinating; these included the effect of a mindless intervention in the amelioration of purposeful life index and embitterment in breast cancer patients. I found this was interesting due to the topic of breast cancer, as it is very close to me but also how mindfulness programs can empower someone with breast cancer. As though in a way, heal them mentally, as described by a family member. Another poster I found interesting was focusing on suicidal and self-harming behaviours in children with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. This project focused on data collected from self-reports and caregiver reports, measuring mental health and daily functioning. The research suggests that it is highly prevalent that these children experience suicidal and self-harming thoughts.