What is a Safe Space?

“When The Project Group (now Designs in Mind) started (within NHS mental health daycare) the concept of a ‘safe space’ wasn’t fashionable or described.

I think safety was thought about in terms of physical safety…

‘Were the hot hospital dinners delivered in tins at the right temperature ?’

‘Was all the food in the cupboard ‘in date’

‘Were folks safely herded across the road’

‘Was erratic behaviour nicely controlled by staff’

Respect for the individual, the right to be heard and not judged, the right to be who you are and to be listened to – these were not very developed concepts; rather maintaining control, keeping it all running smoothly, and keeping your distance, seemed, to me, to be the ‘staff role’.

Now a ‘safe space’ conjures something else for me.

It slips off the tongue and everyone nods ‘how nice’ – a bit passive – a bit of a cliche.

When you think about it a ‘safe space’, for all the various egos, personalities, and individual eccentricities that make up any community of people, is a very hard thing to achieve.

I would like it to mean a space, in which, when we come into it we leave our preconceptions, prejudice, resentments and niggles at the door. We respect each other, we respect our differences, we have an honest dialogue, we face challenges and we listen to each other.

None of us should feel threatened and none of us judged. Most important of all, those who are the most vulnerable those in the darkest places, should be encircled by the rest of us, supported and held up.

WOW! This is an amazing space!!! and a very complex and difficult thing to achieve.

This takes work, it takes active participation we are all a part of its creation. It can’t be ‘provided’ it has to be built by each one of us.

I think we are getting closer to Designs in Mind – we will never achieve it- it is a constant ‘work in progress’ but we can work at it and we can relish the work.

Over the next few months, we are asking for more stories to explore what is a safe space. what does it mean to you? do you have this space in your life? what does it feel like? Is it important? How is it created?

Please get in touch to share your ideas- Catherine (@) designsinmind.co.uk

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