NICON conference, La Mon Hotel, Belfast

I had the privilege to open and close this Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Conference on 5th & 6th March, 2014. The conference theme was ‘Better Together’. Using poetry I stated that providers of services and receivers of services are all service users and must work together and serve together in a professional and public capacity.

I shall not give my script in full but try to give a flavour of my short five minute addresses…

Day 1

A nation of islands?

Islands do not interact.
There’s no exchange of views.
And that’s just great
For visitors are not welcome –
I’ve no interest in you.
I sing my national anthem to an audience of one,
And please myself on my desert isle –
Robinson Crusoe never had such fun!
My choice, my independence, are the order of the day.
I eat when I want.
I sleep when I want.
I don’t do any harm.
I don’t need any favours.
I don’t take any ‘stick’.
Autonomy’s all very well for a while,
But what happens
When I’m sick?

Self-help books didn’t work!

Positive thinking (gone pear-shaped).

I’m beautiful.
I’m clever.
I’m able.
I’m talented.
I’m witty.
I’m great.
Gee. I’m a pain!

I looked to psychiatry for help. Hope hoped for…

Mind’s eye.

Doctor, my mind is out of focus.
Like wearing glasses
That have a wrong prescription.
Will medication mend the blur
And give me back my vision?

A rather rude awakening. Hope dented…

Dr. Who.
I disclose to you.
You don’t disclose to me.
In this power imbalance lies an inequality.
Dr. Who, if such a relationship is to your credit
I simply don’t get it.

One day, whilst walking to work, a solitary seagull was crying out overhead. I felt uneasy, as if being laughed at. I mentioned this matter to a young psychiatrist. Hope dashed!


I told a doctor, “The seagulls are laughing at me.”
The doctor laughed, too!
(Who says laughter is the best medicine?)

Psychiatrists say that physical exercise is good for one’s mood. I say…

Keeping fit at 51?
I think I’ll take the car out for a run.

Day 2

A message to professionals – service users know who cares and who doesn’t care…

Mentally ill (but not stupid).

Squirrel Nutkin’s schizophrenic.
Some people say she’s bonkers.
But Squirrel Nutkin differentiates
‘tween hazelnuts and conkers!

But service users must remember that even staff can be depressed…


Monday morning’s come around.
Even the bloody computers are ‘down’!

Education. Education. Education.
There’s change in this nation?
What’s the latest blog?
Long John Silver has been superseded
By Sonic the hedgehog!

And even Sonic is last year’s thing. Change is supersonic! Let’s rise to the occasion. We are living in difficult times….Personally, I’m learning that hope is forged amidst trials – not before; not afterwards…


It is said
That the darkest hour
Is just before dawn.
In a similar vein
Growth and change
Can be gained
At the moments of greatest pain.

Mountain summit

It is too frightening to make a mistake.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to say what I think.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to let my anger out.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to trust.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to take a risk.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to love.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to live.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

Aaargh!! It’s too frightening to be frightened.

And the valley below,
Oh! the valley below
Is splendid to the eye.



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