Updated: Jul 17
Just Listening Community (JLC) offers a community led alternative to other community members in distress, crisis and suicide experiences. JLC operates outside of the mental health system and services. The service is facilitated by volunteers who have completed the six-week Just Listening training program and overseen by Humane Clinic practitioners.
JLC is one of the many alternatives that are needed in our communities to move away from the diagnostic led mental health services that over medicalise human distress. Over time the Just Listening Community is intended to develop into a model that can be adapted and facilitated in any community.
The following blog provides some context as to the influences behind the Just Listening Community approach and narrative of how the project came to fruition. Just Listening Community approach builds on the knowledge and wisdom that already exists in community that is often overlooked and discarded due to the the imbalance in power of choice and access for any individual in our community who wishes to reach out for support in crisis, distress or suicidal experiences. Due to over influence of psychiatry, professionals, so called evidence based practice and administrations/governments over seeing mental health services, we are asleep to the enormous potential for a person in community to reach out for support to other community members and for community members to reach in to offer support to others.
Just Listening Community is seeking to demonstrate that as a community we need to ReAwaken to the commonality of human experiences in trauma, addition and mental health and each of our experiences of being. In our community we can offer connection, compassion and meaningful action.
Just Listening Community and Humane Clinic acknowledge that Just Listening is not a new concept and has been practiced by first people all over the world for many thousands of years: listening to all that is our existence.
The Just Listening Community - A community based model aims to reduce the number of mental health related presentations to hospital emergency departments. The model builds the capacity of communities to support each other by offering human-to-human connection while resisting the urge to fix or provide solutions, removing the unequal power dynamic often present between a person seeking support and the person providing it.
The JLC is a project conceived and directed by Humane Clinic founder Matt Ball and led by Matt Ball, Rory Ritchie and Berny Maywald with contributions to from many others along the way. The Just Listening Community services is delivered by incredible community volunteers.
The project has been developed without any external financial support (funded by Humane Clinic) and ran for the first 2 months only with the funding of Humane Clinic. We are delighted to announce the Fay Fuller Foundation have now committed to philanthropic donation for 3 years to support a portion of the required funding.
We are also extremely grateful the the Hackham Sports and Social Club for the contribution in funding furniture to create a wonderful feel in the environment.
Community responses to distress and crisis outside of mental health systems.
The need for alternatives to bring community together into connection is well known. For many years alternatives have been available in different places all over the world. An early influence behind the idea of the Just Listening Community was experiences of accessing the Samaritans in the UK: https://www.samaritans.org/.
In the UK the Samaritans offer an amazing services delivered by volunteers outside of the mental health system via phone or online - for people in suicide and distress: 'Whatever you're going through, a Samaritan will face it with you. We're here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year'
Many models that are developed ultimately lead back to 'referrals' back to the mental health system. Samaritans UK is one of the models that does not seek to send people into the mental health services but places value on being there for a person in crisis.
There is Samaritans services available in Australia as well: https://thesamaritans.org.au/
Community led alternatives are important for the whole community to share stories of pain and harm and of connection and healing. For too long mental health systems have taken away the potential for community to support one another through misplaced notions of the 'knowing' of risks, medicalisation of distress and a rampant diagnostic ideology.
Community responses can be about empowering all people in our community in all the different options that can be offered.
A moment of change - Healing Voices movie - Christies Beach - A World Premier 2016
In 2016, a town hall world premiere saw the release of Healing Voices movie.
The film invited us to think about 'What are we talking about when we talk about "mental illness".
Produced by PJ Moynihan (Digitial Eyes Films https://digitaleyesfilm.com/ ) and Oryx Cohen ( National Empowerment https://power2u.org/ ) this ground breaking movie was a catalyst for change in many communities. It would be a major catalyst in Christes Beach.
Around 150 people people turned up to a small hall in Chrisites Beach SA to watch the movie and have a community conversation. Just Listening is just one of the many outcome that emerged out of that night.
One of the collaborators who hosted the movie that night said, as we packed up from the movie screening, 'we need a place like that here'... and so it was to be. As the movie reminds us, in the words of Cesar Chavez -
'Once social change begins, its cannot be revered” is that when the world makes its change it cannot go back. You just have to live life and move on. Once you learn you cant forget. It means that you can not change a person once they succeed in something.'
What followed the first screening of the Healing Voices movie was development of the Many Voices Collective and trips to WOMAD, a Healing Voices Festival and many community conversations based on the Healing Voices Movie in Adelaide, NSW, WA and NZ as we found the desire for alternatives was strong in many communities.
In 2016 the narrative changed!
Then the Many Voices Community - more conversations.
Inspired by the Healing Voices Movie, The Many Voices Festival came to life! You can read a piece here http://www.thisisradelaide.com.au/.../hearing-voices...
World Hearing Voices day (14th September) 2016. The Many Voices Collective were donated the Hopgood theatre by Country Arts SA and many people from the community came along.
A festival atmosphere was created and over 250 people attended the free event. The talk of a free alternatives was not firmly underway.
Later in 2016 and 2017 the Many Voices Festival showed the film in many locals and the story of the Just Listening Community began, Many Voices attended WOMAD and provided a space of connect and challenge to the diagnostic led approaches.
In 2018 Humane Clinic hosted a screening of Healing Voices in Aldinga and Oryx Cohen attended our community - star of the movie! The local community center had agreed to loan us their building on the weekends to run the Just Listening Community. A small committee formed and the next steps began. Although it turned out to be a step on the
journey and not the final plan, the work of two invaluable student OT's, a community worker at the school, Onkaparinga community staff and volunteers took us forward and sent us back to the drawing board as we developed an approach that would become the become the Just Listening Community.
It was in 2017/2018 that the opposition from public health staff to a community movement began. Nurses and administrators at Southern Adelaide Local Health Network went out of their way to try and put a stop to the change and to cause harm to an alternative movement. From Nurses, to administrators and Psychiatrists made up vexatious claims (that were proven to be just that). This group included the CEO and senior management, many of whom who still work their.
But the words of Chevez " Once Social change begins it cannot be reversed" rang loud and and social change had begun.
Next stop ReAwaken Australia - a 5 day gathering of 120 people from all across Australia and the world....more to come!
Consultation towards an alternative
As the movement created by the Many Voices Collective evolved, the reigns towards a community alternative were now taken on by Humane clinic. Inspired by the Movie Healing Voices and in partnership with Oryx Cohen and PJ Moynihan Matt and Stephanie at the Humane Clinic hosted Re-Awaken Australia. ReAwaken Australia was a gathering of 120 people from US, UK, NZ, Australia, Netherlands People from the many nations across Australia and across the world came together to think about #connection #compassion and #meaningful action. 5 days of people sharing ideas, art, workshops, conviviality, sharing food and generally exploring connection and compassion towards meaningful action. Three movies were screen or workshopped. Healing Voices: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjQaI3moC_o Recovering Addition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2Z-vuI48II Crazywise: https://crazywisefilm.com/ Just Listening was begun as spaces for connection were offered
The event concluded with a march on SA parliament steps and hand over of the Manifesto for Compassionate Change to Katrine Hildyard our supportive local MP.
ReAwaken Australia was held in Adelaide in 2019. Over 50% of tickets were provided free or at reduced cost. PJ and Oryx fly in from the US after we had planned the whole thing together via Zoom! So many volunteers contributed to the multifaceted event.
What transpired was a festival of people contributing to a shared sense that we need to ReAwaken to our shared environments and when community connections are made, many realities are possible. The steps towards the Just Listening Community were moving quickly now.
The Manifesto for compassionate change became the mission statement of Humane Clinic as this was the voices of many who had gathered. The call for change was clear across mental health, addition and trauma.
Links to further outcomes from ReAwaken Australia
A ReAwaken podcast evolved. Key note videos and much of the content is available here https://www.reawakenaustralia.com.au/resources The Manifesto began being used and considered around the world https://www.reawakenaustralia.com.au/the-manifesto A ReAwaken ebook was produced - that includes all the artwork and much more: https://www.reawakenaustralia.com.au/ebook Just Listening model was developed https://www.justlistening.com.au/copy-of-overview-of-just...
Change had occurred. This change would provide the energy to bring an alternative. Humane Clinic was now committed to change. It was shortly after ReAwaken Australia occurred that Humane Clinic was gifted a building to host Just Listening Community.
That was the brief history of getting to the Just Listening Community.
Next up the approaches that inform the JLC!
Underlying approaches of Just Listening approach training
The approaches that are influential in the Just Listening approach have all been developed as part of hearing a persons story, supporting connection and the concept of 'being with' rather than the medical mental health models of 'doing to' a person.
Given community has the skills to connect in many ways it was obvious that the Just Listening Community could be facilitated by community members and did not need health professionals to be the experts in 'being with' another community member in distress.
There are so many influences in the Just Listening approach but the following form the basis of the training volunteers receive: Just Listening
https://www.justlistening.com.au/learning Emotional CPR https://www.emotional-cpr.org/ Dissociachotic https://youtu.be/CF8CI7qE9ng Power Threat Meaning Framework https://www.bps.org.uk/power-threat-meaning-framework Suicide Narratives https://www.humaneclinic.com.au/suicide-narratives Compassion informed conceptualization here was developed by Matt, Rory, Berny and Bec.
Justice in Listening
Just Listening name came from a book called Just Listening by Leon Redler and Steven Gans. Leon Redler was a contemporary of RD Laing and offers a wonderful humane reflection in the book. RD Laing has many influences in the Just Listening Community model.
The 'Just' can be thought to represent Justice in listening to a persons story. So often people are trying to tell important narratives in their lives and they are simply not heard. So offering justice that any person story is valid and does not need to be reduced to a 'disorder' and 'treated' when they are expressing distress is important.
The idea of Justice, or social justice, is discussed in this short video: https://youtu.be/eX3Z_x_RMr8
Just Listening Community is concerned with deeply listening to the story that a person is sharing. A story that is shared as we live together in community.
Therapeutic Communities influences
Another influence on the Just Listening model is the therapeutic communities that have served and offered incredible environments to people.
Although many communities have and do exist that create environments for connection and moving through experiences, Kingsley Hall and Soteria House are two major influences on Just Listening Community, along the Pathways (a community project in SE England).
RD Laing set up Kingley Halls in the 1960s and can be seen here talking about the place:
Loren Mosher set up Soteria House in the 1970's. He introduces his work here:
The influence that these two approaches have is phenomenal. Of course both of these places personified options outside of the mental health systems. These places demonstrated that medication, diagnosis and restriction were not required for people to feel safe to move through experiences. They have been lost in the chaos of modern biomedical psychiatry and politics of power that use health systems to win votes.
Just Listening Community is inspired and influenced by both Kingsley Hall, Soteria House and Pathways along with the many other incredible places that offer these alternatives. Although not a residential community, JLC could be seen to operate on similar perspectives.
The Just Listening approach
The Just Listening approach is about ensuring we sit and listen and provide connection to a person in distress or just with a story to share. Just Listening is about being with not doing to another person. Not trying to fix or solve problems, but deeply witnessing and offering justice to the other person towards mutuality and connection. The approach has been practiced by the beach, at markets, at Womadelaide and further afield.
Some simple videos have been produced to talk through the process if you want to try it in your own area. For the Just Listening Community volunteers the Just Listening Videos are just one part of the training.
Please take time to watch each video if you want to know more: 1 & 2 . What is Just Listening? describe the model and practicality https://youtu.be/ftgmCqWyvl0 https://youtu.be/B8I9NcFX2K0 3. Justice in Listening. Discusses the concepts of social justice found n deep listening https://youtu.be/eX3Z_x_RMr8 4. Basic Empathy Skills - provides some ideas on basic skills of listening with empathy https://youtu.be/clf1wL_7Kro 5. Non Verbal Communication - talks beyond the verbal expressions https://youtu.be/sJ-65kJ92Gk 6. Fix It Culture. Talks about avoiding the need to fix things we cannot fix. https://youtu.be/0sAZWZsAwAM 7. Person Centred Approach - introduces some basics of this approach https://youtu.be/GspnDA4yNjg 8. Handling Strong Emotions. Talks about listening longer when a person expresses strong emotions and not taking action to stop them. https://youtu.be/GspnDA4yNjg 9. Boundaries. Talking about the need to negotiate what is needed for both people as mutual beings. https://youtu.be/fWkl80pem7I 10. Open and Closed Questions. Introduces some basics of asking questions to understand https://youtu.be/zQfwK9aO_dc 11. How to implement Just Listening in your community https://youtu.be/3dJ-3MKRBxU
Emotional CPR or eCPR is an approach that has evolved from people with lived experience. As Mental Health First Aid and other approach have emerged, so has the need for an approach that does categorize people as 'too difficult' or in need of referral in the moment.
What is eCPR? (taken from the Emotional CPR website
'Emotional CPR (eCPR) is an educational program designed to teach people to assist others through an emotional crisis by three simple steps:
C = Connecting P = emPowering, and R = Revitalizing.
The Connecting process of eCPR involves deepening listening skills, practicing presence, and creating a sense of safety for the person experiencing a crisis. The emPowering process helps people better understand how to feel empowered themselves as well as to assist others to feel more hopeful and engaged in life. In the Revitalizating process, people re-engage in relationships with their loved ones or their support system, and they resume or begin routines that support health and wellness which reinforces the person’s sense of mastery and accomplishment, further energizing the healing process.
eCPR is based on the principles found to be shared by a number of support approaches: trauma-informed care, counseling after disasters, peer support to avoid continuing emotional despair, emotional intelligence, suicide prevention, and cultural attunement. It was developed with input from a diverse cadre of recognized leaders from across the U.S., who themselves have learned how to recover and grow from emotional crises. They have wisdom by the grace of first- hand experience'.
What is emotional crisis?
Crisis as Universal Experience
Emotional crisis is a universal experience. It can happen to anyone, at any time. When we are exposed to this extraordinary situation, we develop amazing and creative ways to protect ourselves, To onlookers, these protective mechanisms may look very odd, even "crazy". To us, they have meaning. Through using eCPR we can better understand and overcome our fear of seemingly unusual behavior brought on by an emotional crisis.
Through eCPR we learn how to form supportive connections that empower the person in emotional crisis so they are able to feel revitalized and quickly resume meaningful roles in the community.
Emotional CPR was first brought to South Australia by Oryx Cohen as he taught the first cohort of eCPR facilitators. eCPR is an important component of the Just Listening volunteer training.
Power Threat Meaning Framework
The Power Threat Meaning Framework (#ptmf) is an important part of the Just Listening training for volunteers. The PTMF supports volunteers to stay focused on the narrative of the person and their story.
The PTMF is a document that has evolved out of the clinical division of the British Psychological Society. With the release of the DSM 5 (diagnostic manual) and the ever increasing number of disorder labels a group of psychologists decided enough was enough:
‘The DCP is of the view that it is timely and appropriate to affirm publicly that the current classification system as outlined in DSM and ICD, in respect of the functional psychiatric diagnoses, has significant conceptual and empirical limitations. Consequently, there is a need for a paradigm shift in relation to the experiences that these diagnoses refer to, towards a conceptual system not based on a ‘disease’ model’ (May 2013)
The PTMF is an alternative to a diagnostic model and instead understands the importance of the operation of power in peoples lives.
The PTMF asks the following important questions: 'What has happened to you?’ (How is Power operating in your life?) ‘How did it affect you?’ (What kind of Threats does this pose?) ‘What sense did you make of it?’ (What is the Meaning of these experiences to you?) ‘What did you have to do to survive?’ (What kinds of Threat Response are you using?)
What are your strengths?’ (What access to Power resources do you have?) …..and to integrate all the above: ‘What is your story?’
For an introduction to the PTMF see: https://www.bps.org.uk/power-threat.../introduction-ptmf
Training resources on the PTMF: https://www.bps.org.uk/power-threat.../resources-training
Good practice example: https://www.bps.org.uk/power-threat-meaning.../good-practice
Research and publications https://www.bps.org.uk/power-threat.../research-publications
Diversity, Inclusion and Anti racism https://www.bps.org.uk/power-threat-meaning.../anti-racism
Dissociachotic framework is useful in understanding how any person is expressing as a response to an unsafe 'environment' - especially in threat of human relationship. Although initially developed as a theory around extreme states often referred to as 'psychosis'. The framework has evolved to know explain the presentation of any emotionally distressing experience including suicide.
A seminar on Dissociachotic
Dissociachotic can be understood as: 'Making Contact with the human experience Dissociachotic theory is an explanatory framework for the emergence and evaporation of altered states of experience.
Dissociachotic can be understood as the 'experience of animation and giving life to being at variance of companionship to self, in order for the survival of self in relationship to interpersonal threat from another'. Dissociachotic provides a framework to understand and respond to any state of distress.
The person experiencing a dissociachotic reality can be understood to be unconsciously putting the state of distress between themselves and the other as a process of developing and maintaining relationship in the safest way possible. A dissociachotic expression can be seen as an invitation to make contact with the person experiencing an altered state - to make contact with the altered state.
'In this process a co-existing shared experience can evolve: both people having different experiences of the same moment provides a bridge to connection' (Ball & Picot)'
For further information on Dissociachotic:
A brief version of Dissociachotic can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/bAIi9935VEM
A seminar on Dissociachotic can be viewed here (45 mins) https://youtu.be/CF8CI7qE9ng
The original peer reviewed publication: https://journals.sagepub.com/.../10.1177/0022167821993668
Suicide Narratives is about being with a person who experiences suicide in their life. The approach to suicide identifies the person contemplating ending their life as carrying stories in the community that have made life unlivable for that individual.
Suicide Narrative webinar
Suicide Narratives support understanding the current approaches to suicide have not reduced the number of people who end their own lives and fails to truely see and hear the many people who live with the experience of suicide ongoing in their lives.
Suicide Narratives also moves away from the risk orientated approaches of the mental health system. Indeed, Suicide Narratives sees assessment as the biggest risk of disconnection. Volunteers at Just Listening Community are encouraged to listen more and develop more connection if a person is suicidal.
The approach has 4 components: Crisis response - Just Listening / eCPR Ongoing response - Suicide Meaning Conversation - Talking with Suicide - Suicide Narratives Group
The Suicide Narratives paper can be viewed for free here: https://www.humaneclinic.com.au/suicide-narratives
A webinar about the Suicide Narrative approach can be seen here (45 mins) https://youtu.be/GLXmhVjHb0Y
Public education and conversation is vital in providing alternatives.
Expressing the need for potential in human connection and in non pathologising approaches means providing broader context to alternatives is important. ReAwaken podcast seeks to do just that.
Inspiring resources that exist currently
There are many inspiring places that discuss non pathologising alternatives - some are listed here:
One of our greatest inspirations in recent years is the Drop the Disorder movement.
Developed by Jo Watson is has become an invaluable space for online connection and challenge to biomedical psychiatry: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1182483948461309 The A disorder for Everyone events have become global resources for the movement that challenges the pathologsing and medicalising approaches: http://www.adisorder4everyone.com/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaWG15Tqjo6sZ7obcnKc_Mw
Mad In America is an incredible resource to support the conversation and need for change: https://www.madinamerica.com/
Mad in the UK is a UK based version with additional content: https://www.madintheuk.com/
Anuway is an a new space created by a dear friend of Humane Clinic and Just Listening Community - Claire McClory. Claire is powerful and passionate in her intention to create new conversations in mental health
There are so many important collaborators for change. 'Once Social Change begins, it cannot be reversed...' Social change has begun and Just Listening Community is part of the change.
Puzzle of ethics at Just Listening
Just Listening Community does not exist in a vacuum: It exists in the context of many opinions and structures of 'authority'. The context is within professional ideology and power, systemic political investments of individual and organisational rigidity and societal perceptions of how, what and why a response to human distress should be. We can to acknowledge the layers of ethics that exist in the offering human to human connection.
One question we can ask when supporting a person in distress, when seeking to manage the vast array of competing opinions and structures, is whether we are being with in an act of authentic partnership or whether we are veering into to traitorous cooperation?
Are we offering and delivering the same thing?
Are we going to remain authentic to human connection and mutuality, or will be operate from our position of power when our own vulnerability is exposed?
Can we speak from our hearts and authentic voice of will be respond to one of the many competing priorities of risk, ideology and fear?
Modern mental health services often prioritize 'safety' and vulnerability of the professional over the human to human needs of the person in distress.
Just Listening has been developed outside of the mental health system in South Australia to voice and counteract many of the accepted norms. This includes subservience to the mental health act and potential to remove a persons human rights.
When facilitating Just Listening Community we are seeking to offer authentic partnership and not take actions that are traitorous to our mutuality.
Just Listening is therapeutic
Informed by Psychotherapy, the words of Mary Duhig personify how the Just Listening Community approach, whilst not psychotherapy is informed deeply compassion approaches.
Ethos of Just Listening Community
When we arrived at the Just Listening building the front doors displayed the phrase:
"You are exactly where you need to be"
This has become our ethos. Being clear about what we are offering both for the person in distress and for the community wanting to reach out to support others.
The Just Listening community is about connection and Listening for mutual value and the following ethos: