Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Storytelling

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Today I had a lecture on storytelling within mental health which I really enjoyed; I felt like a proper writer for a whole two hours so I've decided to have a bit of a blog about it because it's lead to me having a big think about why we tell stories and the importance of telling our stories.

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.” 
Sue Monk Kidd - The Secret Life of Bees

Ultimately stories define us, whether it be the kind of stories we write and share the world; the stories you'll only tell your best friend or the stories people tell you, all of these define the way we live our lives. More often than not we need to tell stories to help ourselves make sense of a situation. I've lost count of the number of times I have rang my mam just to rant and rave about something; I don't want her to give me any answers actually I just want someone to listen and by the end of the conversation I've worked out what I need to do by myself. This is where it plays an important part in mental health nursing; enabling a person to talk openly can be just what they need to relieve burden and alleviate distress. Just like I want my mam to listen to my problems a mental health nurse can provide a platform for recovery by means of helping a person reach their own conclusions about their current situation.

Looking at this in relation to the health care system highlights some issues with the the compatibility of narrative care in the current health care system. Susko (1994) suggested that there are two approaches to the perceived identity of the person: the narrative, story telling approach which I've already touched on and then there is caseness. Caseness is based around signs and symptoms which result in a diagnosis, so in a sense it places the person in an "illness category". If you read my blog regularly you will know I have an issue with barriers to accessing care, have a read of my blog on Clustering and Slipping Through The Net . In a way caseness focusses on the diagnosis and current situation in a way narrative does not. What does all of this have to do with stories? The approach taken totally changes the story: a caseness approach gives an "end point" of a story from the nurses perspective whereas a narrative approach gives a beginning and middle of a story from that persons perspective, giving an open opportunity for the end of the story. Thinking of treatment and recovery in the sense of storytelling seems to give so much more hope in a way that a medical model doesn't. A diagnosis is not the be all and end all, there are options for the future and looking back through stories can help find the answers to the future, it can help find goals for the future. 

I mentioned earlier that I ring my mam to rant and rave and don't expect anything in return; this brings me onto the notion of the fact that there is never just one truth of a story. The story you tell will always depend on who you're telling it to, have a think about this. When you have what could initially seem like a normal conversation you could be the only person to hear that one story, make the most out of the ordinary experience of storytelling. Think about how empowering it can be for a person to establish their own reality and remember:

There is no objective truth, there is no one reality, every story has one thousand versions.

Hannah x

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