With the #BlackLivesMatter movement sending ripples around the world on top of the #COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to adjust to the ‘new normal’ are underway and the #OccupationalTherapy profession is no exception. Over the years there has been repeating and intermittent awareness of the need to increase inclusive representation within the profession. Talk needs to be followed by action, and more needs to be done in order to lead to sustainable change. We need to address the systems and processes that make real lasting change difficult. It is not just about making people who don’t usually represent the typical presentation of an #occupational therapist, fit the mould, but about embracing the diversity and strengths that widening access and participation has to offer our profession, and more importantly the people we serve. Moving forward we need to continue to build alliances within the professional membership, regardless of skin colour and ethnicity, to have a depth of impact in change. We can do this as a profession with the help of local activity, diverse local champions, diverse local leaders and @theRCOT.
This #OTalk presents an opportunity to share our thoughts on this subject, in light of the recent #BlackLivesMatter events and the public health report highlighting that #BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) communities are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to emphasise (and for the RCOT to take note) that focus on the BAME community should be regularly reviewed and discussed. This will keep the subject an explicitly ever present agenda for the profession in order to challenge and change structural based inequality. We also acknowledge that while the term BAME can be problematic, it can be helpful for exploring issues of representation. If in doubt ask the person their preferred term of reference.
This discussion on occupational therapy and UK-based BAME communities is part of an #OTalk series on topics of diversity. Other topics to be explored later include: Disability (including Neurodiversity), LGBTQIA+ and Gender Issues.
Some preliminary groundwork in preparation for this series is encouraged:
Accept that you will make mistakes and if these are pointed out, reflect on them and make the necessary changes.
Be clear about the differences between Inequality, Equality, Equity, and Justice. Check out this graphic created by @lunchbreath based on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.
Questions for the #OTalk chat will be as follows:
1 A) How ethnically diverse do you perceive our profession to be now? B) Has this changed over the course of your time as an OT? (Q Hosted by @Occ4LifeLtd)
2 A) Why would we want to encourage more people from BAME backgrounds to enter the profession? B) Does the OT staff group in your area represent the population you serve? (Q Hosted by @sherriikapp)
3 A) What racial / cultural discrimination have you experienced, seen or even perpetrated (even unconsciously)? B) What did you do about it? (Q Hosted by @KwakuOT)
4 A) What barriers do BAME occupational therapists face for progression into roles in leadership, academia and research? Please refer to the list of questions prepared by @HannahtheOT https://twitter.com/HannahtheOT/status/1267852336443150341 (How many Black lecturers / placement educators / managers have you had? Can you name 10 Black OTs you’ve worked with throughout your career? Can you name 10 white OTs? Name an OT theory, model or standardised assessment developed by a Black OT? How many articles/books have you read that were written by a Black OT?) (Q Hosted by @MwelaSihle)
5 A) What responsibility do you / will you take for exploring and educating yourself on issues of race and culture? B) What is one change you can make tomorrow? (Q Hosted by @LecturerMish)
In one occupational therapist’s work place it was identified that approximately 50% of inmates in a prison setting are from BAME backgrounds, with only 10% accessing occupational therapy services. Many reported discomfort in accessing services as they felt that the staff body was not representative of their backgrounds and lacked understanding of where they were coming from.
A Black occupational therapist received comments from a supervisor which suggested that they were perceived as lazy and uneducated. This Black colleague felt they had to work ten times as hard as white counterparts and also sees white colleagues get away with things they are reprimanded for.
A white Muslim occupational therapist who wears a hijab went to an interview and saw visible shock on the interviewer’s face. Feedback suggests that she couldn’t have answered the questions differently but she wasn’t offered the job.
A Black student turns up to a university admissions interview wearing jeans – they demonstrate more knowledge and insight than a white student who comes wearing a suit or smart attire. Which applicant gets awarded a place on the programme?
This #OTalk session and blogpost was made possible through the contributions of: Sihle Mwela @MwelaSihle Kwaku Agyemang @KwakuOT Jo Bresi-Ando @otStones Musharrat Ahmed-Landeryou @LecturerMish Elaine Rutherford @Cariad_OT Jou Yin, Teoh @teohjouyin Grace Chikelu Amamilo (not on Twitter) Kirsty Stanley @Occ4LifeLtd or @kirstyes Somia Jan @SomiaOT Carolyn Connage @CarolynOT Nichole Yam @nicholeyam Ed Sum @musedNeuroOT Sophia Awan @Sophia OT Yasmin Anisuddin Ward @Yazz_OT Geraldine Kinkead-Richards @GeriLKR Hannah Daisy @HannahtheOT Simone Welch @Simzy_x Ally Plusii @Ally56642911 Sheri Braimah @sheriefeb
One change our group thought was that RCOT could easily introduce is to appoint an Equality and Diversity Officer dedicated to organising research, study, networking and publicity events, and for influencing policy. A diversity mentorship / support scheme was also suggested to provide opportunities for people to discuss common issues. It would also be useful to have some dedicated webpage resources similar to those on the CSP website – https://www.csp.org.uk/workplace/equality-diversity. Do keep informed on the RCOT progress following the RCOT BAME Big Conversation – a summary of which will be posted on their new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion pages here – https://www.rcot.co.uk/equality-diversity-and-inclusion
Some immediate actions you can take:
Vote for Dr Kee Hean, Lim @lim_hean to be member of the RCOT Council. He is the sole candidate to represent the BAME population and has a long, consistent track record of enabling equitable student recruitment and retention at Brunel University London. The Brunel University London student body has 30-50% BAME representation thanks to the efforts of Kee Hean and his fellow admissions tutor Dr Ayana Ifekoya. The Brunel University London occupational therapy team have a tweet thread documenting their recent efforts contributing towards Racial and Cultural Equity: https://twitter.com/OTatBrunel/status/1281145935502942209
Please consider answering the call for stories, poems, comics, etc for an eBook “We Are OT: a brief history and personal accounts of diversity in the profession of occupational therapy within the UK” to be published on World Occupational Therapy Day 2020. https://occupation4life.co.uk/2020/06/05/we-are-ot/
I was invited by @LecturerMish to follow @DLafayette411‘s example and conceptualise BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic – UK Term) lives through an OT Model. Now being unable to stick to one tweet and not go overboard I’ve written this.
CMOP-E – Canadian Model of Occupational Performance and Engagement
This model describes the relationship and influences between these elements (Spirituality, Person, Occupation and Environment) which enables occupational performance. That is the ability of a person to perform occupations and daily engagements.
Entered the profession to make a difference. Core identity as a member of a BAME community, family and the OT Profession. May feel incongruity with core values and beliefs and current situation.
Cognitive – Mind can’t switch off, memories of past injustice mix with current situation. Need space to process. Emotional reasoning does not equal illogical reasoning.
Physical – Added concern about the increased physical health risk of covid to BAME populations. Bombarded by sensory images of racism.
Affective – Tired and worn down, frustrated and angry, upset by being asked to relive past trauma. May also be energised by the momentum for change. Additional anxiety created by pandemic.
Self-Care – Possibly neglected or may not be being prioritised. Need to focus on mental health and safety.
Leisure – I would imagine fairly limited especially in terms of enjoyment. Constantly engaging in debate, reading news/social media. Favoured occupations may be sidelined.
Productivity – If still working the form of this will have changed placing extra demands on the person to work in different ways. Engagement in activism as a productive co-occupation.
Physical – Lockdown has removed access to certain parts of society where people may have sought support. May feel like there is no sanctuary as home has become where everything takes place.
Institutional (includes Economic, Legal, Political) Possibly feeling unheard by professional and regulatory bodies and workplaces. Wanting to affect change but having little power to do so within current structure. Finance may be difficult at the current time meaning less able to act on needs. Political environment is a mess compounded by Brexit – feels unsupportive. People also appear to be conflating politics with human rights. #BLM movement driving impetus for change.
Cultural – Conflicting cultures. Family, ethnicity, professional. May struggle with the professional or overarching British cultural attitude of stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on. Focus is on connecting more to culture around ethnicity at present – that’s where attention is needed. Family may or may not support this depending on familial make-up – do family members share BAME backgrounds and understand concern?
Social – Usual support groups not as accessible, experiencing tone policing online from those who aren’t used to discussing racism. Seeking social support from allies to take on some of the load. Co-workers may not ‘get it’ especially where you are the lone OT from a BAME background.
In this model the environment is recognised as an underused resource and one that we need to capitalise on.
Not included in the model but I’d add in the Historical environment here too. This isn’t about what has just happened. It’s about all the things that have come before, all the personal microagressions, all the injustices. They aren’t blaming others for the past environment but it still impacts massively on the present and needs acknowledgement (and yes even if you/they weren’t alive when it all happened).
Synthesis and action
Reaffirm core belief of self and validation of the person as a their member of their BAME heritage. Help articulation of goals and desires for this period.
Support strategies to manage stress and switch off. Prioritise sleep, nutrition etc. Person needs to be healthy to be most effective. Examine reasoning and explore thoughts and feelings. Risk assessment re physical well-being in workplaces. Recognise that everyone is individual. Some BAME OTs may not want to/feel able to engage at the moment and that is their right.
Refocus on self care and restorative leisure occupations. Recognise that energy will need to be spent differently during this time though. Respect that activism is a valid occupation – explore different forms of activism. Possibly reduce demands of some occupational areas to compensate at this time, eg. Housework. That’s always the first thing to go with me at least!
Locate a safe space, a place or time where can just be themselves.
Find a social support network of like minded individuals to bounce ideas off and share the load. Include white allies to support this.
Challenge structural and institutional inequalities and demand change. Allies need to do this too. Professional body/workplace could take more responsibility for leading change allowing BAME OTs to contribute as able without feeling burdened.
As a white OT I have aimed to use the model to empathise with the lived experience of my BAME colleagues. Any mistakes are entirely my own. Do feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve written. I will listen.
An OT CPD Activity A Day by Kirsty Stanley is a Creative CPD Journal for occupational therapists to use to: re-invigorate their Continuing Professional Development, try a range of creative methods of reflection, reconnect with the philosophy of our wonderful profession, imagine its future, and to explore their own occupational wellbeing.
The 366 activities included are not dated so they can be completed in any order, and started on any day of any year. If you do join me in using the journal in 2021 share your activities with everyone on social media using #OTCPD21.
From clinical reasoning to your favourite occupation, anti-racist practice to risk management, reflective art and poetry to basket weaving. There will be something in here to spark new insights in even the most experienced of OTs. You can see some example pages here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CCshVE4DBoN/?igshid=u5x5tb4s0m7i.
Kirsty Stanley, via Occupation4Life Ltd, will be writing and designing this journal which will be shipped worldwide in December 2020. Books will be square coil bound 210x210cm with matte cover. Pages will be mostly black and white with some colour inserts.
The journal is priced at £20 (£25 inc UK P&P, £35 inc International P&P). Use my Paypal me link to pay the relevant amount.
Preorders will close on 20th November 2020 after which you will be sent an email asking you to confirm your shipping address. I cannot guarantee a reprint or stock after this date. It will depend entirely on demand.
For combined shipping on multiple orders for teams contact me via Occupation4Life@gmail.com for a quote. I’m based in Dorset so can deliver within the county for free.
A brief history and personal accounts of diversity in the profession of Occupational Therapy within the UK.
An ebook commissioned and edited by Occ4Life Ltd exploring the experience of BAME, Disabled, LGBTQIA+ and Male OTs within training and work as OTs within the U.K.
Send your interest in developing a personal account of training and working within the OT profession to Occupation4Life@gmail.com
These can be in prose, poetry, fictionalised, comic, video or audio form and I am happy to work with you on editing a piece. With an ebook we can be interactive and cover different mediums of expression.
We are interested not only in your more challenging experiences but in also knowing about how your diversity has added strength to services and helped improve the service to your clients.
Contributing authors will not receive payment but will retain rights to their work for inclusion elsewhere if desired. Ebook will be sold for a fee with all profits going to setting up a small 2021 scholarship fund for Black student/s training in Britain (as this book has been particularly inspired by the #BlackLivesMatters movement) towards education and training. I will be taking no payment for my contribution as editor or contributor.
Deadline for expressions of interest are 31st Aug 2020 with initial pieces to be submitted and edited by the end of September 2020. I will work with contributors on identifying an appropriate timeline for initial submission, editing feedback and amendments.
The ebook will launch and be available for purchase starting on #WorldOTDay on 27th October 2020 with additional promotion in U.K. OT Week in November.
Scholarship application process will open in January 2021 to support training from September 2021. Further details on the scholarship application process to follow.
This year February 6th 2020 is #TimetoTalk day where we remind everyone that it’s ok to talk about Mental Health challenges, and appreciate that mental health is just as important as, and often intrinsically linked to, physical health.
On my personal blog I have spoken about this before but I think it’s also important to recognise that professionals can have challenges with their mental health too. And that you can work successfully with chronic mental health problems.
For one, I think my personal experience with depression certainly helps me empathise with others who are experiencing depressive symptoms linked to life issues, bereavement, a change in health, a new diagnosis or simply just because that’s how you feel.
For me, the main thing that keeps me going through these periods is maintaining my engagement in occupations (or activities) that are meaningful to me. But sometimes we can struggle to do this. That’s where an occupational therapist can come in. Sadly though thresholds for seeing occupational therapists within mental health services are quite high and often medication and talking therapies are the first port of call for people. Now, I have personally benefitted from both of these but I did feel that a slightly more practical approach in combination would have been helpful, and I did struggle to do this for myself even though I knew all the theory.
But these are the things that kept me going through my most recent period of depression.
1. Number one will come as no surprise if you know me. It was books and reading. But, during this last period of depression, I did find my concentration more limited and so I made more use of audiobooks than I ever had before. Adapting occupations, finding different ways to do them or switching to alternative occupations that give you the same experience is something an occupational therapist can help you do.
2. Number two was a completely new occupation to me. Part of my depression linked to my experience with fertility problems and I was mourning the loss of a mothering role. So I decided to foster (then adopt) two jack chis. Now whilst they aren’t a substitute for having children they definitely helped my recovery and in part filled that role. Prior to their arrival there were days that I spent entirely in bed. The dogs didn’t let me do that, and I’ve got the most exercise I have in a long taking them for regular walks. Occupational Therapists can help you fit new occupations into your daily routine, and even help with developing the skills to take on a new occupation in the first place.
3. Number three was activities with friends. Getting out of the house, socialising, talking to others about their lives, grabbing a coffee, seeing a musical, whatever it is you normally would do together.
It’s this last one that I want to talk about most today. The fact that, had I been seen off work doing some of these things that people would have felt I was “skiving”. And this is exactly why people struggle. Previously I would have cancelled all my plans outside of the house, and I would have felt worse for it. I needed to keep doing what I could do, without judgement. People didn’t see the behind the scenes, hours of crying, being unable to get dressed for days on end, barely eating. Having a trip booked was the thing that made me do these things. Being able to share these things on social media as I usually would (another meaningful occupation for me) were vital to living authentically.
And here is where I hope occupational therapists can have the most impact. Societally. By highlighting the importance of occupational engagement and balance to health and wellbeing. By helping employers and employees negotiate reasonable adjustments and phased returns to work that include time for exercise, socialising etc. To, like other countries, seriously consider a shortened working week, that has been shown to increase productivity and happiness. For it not to be seen as you are well enough for all of work or not well enough for any of it. The government want us to believe this is their goal to but the structures and cultures in workplaces are still not there to support it.
For me the decision to go independent was driven by the need for this flexibility. By understanding that early mornings are not the best time to get the best work out of me. I’m sure the independent route will come with its own challenges but hopefully understanding what I need and putting it in place won’t be one of them.
I am wary that I have focused on depression in this post, because that is my personal experience, but the same applies to people who experience anxiety, bipolar, personality disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders etc etc. We all need to live life to live life.
Check out these particular pages for services that I offer that I think are relevant to this post.
Monday 3rd February 2020 sees me embark on a new business venture as a self-employed Independent occupational therapist and writer. I am combining passions and seeking to give myself variety and flexibility in my working life.
My name is Kirsty Stanley. I am an occupational therapist with over 20 years experience. I am a writer and voracious reader. I also have a number of health conditions that I believe give me the empathy to work in a more client-centred way.
To find out more about my ethos and the services I can provide please explore the menu links and don’t hesitate to contact me with your queries. I am based in Dorset so some services will be restricted by area although I am happy to consider travel or online or telephone consultations where appropriate – these may only be limited by time zones.
Please also give me a follow on my social media accounts (facebook and instagram – links can be found on the website menu) where I will be sharing more about my services as well as educating about occupation.
I will also blog here from time to time when I have anything relevant to say or to share service updates.