The Convenor of Bristol Soteria has sent this account of the launch meeting.

First Bristol Soteria Network Meeting 29th February, 2020 

A small group of us met in central Bristol for our first meeting as a local group. We were all from different backgrounds but shared a common interest in the mental health services that has had life-changing effects on people we know. For some in the group, this involved their adult children, for others it involved people who had been in their care as health care professionals or therapists in private practice.

We started the afternoon with an informal chat over tea, and then moved on to discuss in turn our interest in the Soteria Network, and why we had decided to attend this meeting. Before long it became evident that there was a rich experience of people who had a personal passion for the work of Soteria, and who would like to see the world of psychiatry move away from pharmaceutical medications and move towards a more humanitarian therapy base. We heard about the mental and physical trauma that is caused when ‘treatment’ is rolled out in a manner that suits the orthodox medical model rather than the needs of the individual in question. We heard of the mental anguish of what it is like to be a parent with a child in secure services, having to navigate the uncomfortable paths through psychiatric services that are almost hostile to the views and opinions of parents who may choose to challenge the orthodox treatment being prescribed to their children.

For those of us who had worked within the services, either as private practitioners or through the NHS routes, there was the perspective of professional standards of care sometimes causing conflict with personal feelings around the use of medication and the labelling of mental illness.

We were finally able to share in the video testimonies of two clients of a member who is an art psychotherapist, who had both found amazing relief and expression through the discovery of putting paint to paper. This epitomised the relationship between true therapy and life-changing behaviour in a way that is empowering and enhancing to health.

There was some stimulating discussion about how we wanted to move forward with our group. As one member aspired to bring her son home from hospital in order to help him step down from his medication regime we speculated how we could help with the process, providing support in the home on a rota. We speculated that although starting up a Soteria house to mirror the California project run by Loren Mosher in the 1970s might be beyond our remit at this present time, we saw a possibility of bringing the Soteria methods to the home setting on an individual basis.

Our plan for future meetings was to take place on approximately a monthly basis. This was prior to the Covid-19 Lockdown which meant we had to cancel the next venue and set up a Zoom meeting instead, which we arranged hastily for the 18th April.