Sunday, September 21, 2008

MHA Conference in Wichita

I'm in Wichita for a MHA national conference. We're staying at the Hotel at Old Town, which is a warehouse built in 1906 that has been converted into a hotel. It has many nice features, not the least of which is that you can raise the windows. Really. Amazing. It's not hermetically sealed, keeping inside every disgusting thing that has ever entered. I'm on the second floor and lucky enough to have a tree right outside. As I'm typing this I have a little breeze coming in. It's cold enough I've only got one window open tonight instead of the two I had open earlier.

I came over early afternoon so I could take advantage of the time before the meeting started to write. There's something about being away from home and the responsibilities there that frees up my mind to write. I did another chapter this afternoon.

Tonight our group did a timeline. I thought this fad was over, but I guess not. It seems I've been doing them in various groups for about four years now. Maybe this is a fad that isn't going to fade.

Tonight we were asked to put ourselves on the timeline of when we first became involved with mental health issues, and draw a picture of a significant event in the mental health field. We started with the 60s and worked through the 90s. I have blurred the writing to obscure anyone's personal information, but I wanted to give you a sense of how long this piece of paper was and how full it was by the time we were done.

I suppose it's a valuable process for lots of people to see things written down like that. The colors are an interesting visual for me, but I start getting antsy to be done long before anyone else in the room does. I just do not have a brain and body that likes to sit still for two hours and meander our way through the decades. It's just doesn't resonate for me. But, obviously, it does for some people and that's great. I generally just try to participate in a meaningful way without prolonging it unnecessarily.

One of the interesting things that was brought out tonight is something I've thought about many times but never heard expressed so succinctly. In the mental health field, as in many others, there's the idea of "best practice," meaning that THIS thing is the BEST way to handle a particular situation. Tonight someone said that looking at the timeline they could see that best practices have changed over the years.

I've thought about that many times. That what people are doing today - the best they have to offer - may one day be looked back on as a horrible thing. At one time putting people in shackles was the best practice. Obviously, we don't agree with that. I wonder if 100 years from now we'll consider giving people drugs that may not be effective for them will be viewed the same way. We don't yet have any way to know what will work so we just try it and see. Surely at some point we'll be able to do better, to see in advance what will work. At that point will our "best practice" today of trying drugs be seen as barbaric? Maybe so.

Ultimately, it's like the old saying, "When you know better, you do better." I can apply that to my life in so many circumstances - work and professional. The trick is to keep learning so you can know better so you can then do better.

With that in mind I suppose I'd best sleep so I will be fresh tomorrow so I can learn. All of life is a cycle it seems. 
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