""There is life beyond mental ill health" - the story of a mental health worker"

About: Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust / Adult mental health (inpatient)

(as a staff member),

Working in Mental Health Services is such a rewarding job. The human beings that I work with (who are referred to as patients, clients or service users) are people often short of some human warmth and understanding.

I have worked in Nottingham's Mental Health Services for over 20 years and have seen many changes to the service. We are now (on the whole) more caring and understanding of the people we work with. It is unfortunate that sometimes the Mental Health Service attracts less caring staff who appear to like what they see as power over the patients that they work with. This is changing and is helped by having staff reveal their susceptibility to mental health issues in their life (Coming Out) and so I feel I need to support this emancipation by telling my story.

I suppose all of my life I have suffered from a depressive disorder, maybe I didn't realise until my early thirties that this is what it was. I know there were times that I really struggled to understand why I felt so miserable, even as a child I remember dark moments and frightening thoughts of wanting to be dead or take my life, because no one understood me.

As the years have gone by I have become better at managing the bouts of depression that from time to time pop up to remind me that they are still there. Treating the depression as a small part of me has been far more beneficial than treating me as a depressive (labelling me). For the majority of the time I am now able to live my life understanding that there may still be down times, but ensuring I make the most of the up times. It is only in the past year that the thoughts of wanting to be dead or kill myself have lessened, but these are symptoms of an illness that is part of me. Knowing how to cope with this is the key. Adopting a coping strategy that gets me through the times when I am stuggling with depression has meant a swifter recovery during times that I am unwell.

I last had a bout of depression in October/November of this year (2009) and boy it was a lot easier to cope with. Two months off of work not because I couldn't cope with the depression but because I was unable to give my all to the service users (human beings) that I work with.

I have received excellent support from my manager and more importantly from our deputy manager Steve. Steve is keen on job retention, he supports many service users to remain in work by negotiating reasonable adjustments to help retain what for most of us is a vital part of our lives (our jobs). Steve gave me this support and it was of great value to know that someone was their to offer me support if I needed it.

Due to the flexible working approach that the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust has, I have been able to return to work with ample support and flexibility to my working hours.

Change is an important aspect of any service, however I am concerned that some changes will leave the more vulnerable more vulnerable, similar to when 'Care in the Community' was first introduced.

With the support of the Exemplar Employment lead (Mike) I am developing work experience placements which enable the people I work with to access employment opportunities that go to promote future paid employment for those service users (human beings) that feel they could and would like to engae in work.

I hope this story helps assure people that there is life beyond mental ill health. Although the deppresive times are difficult I have been able to learn from them and it as made me a far more compassionate and understanding human being, qualities that are so valuable in our workforce.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››


Response from Involvement Team , Involvement & Experience, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

Thank you for sharing such an inspirational story about life after mental illness.

We are sorry it has taken so long to reply to your posting which I know will give hope to staff going through similar experiences.

The road to recovery can be long and winding but you have proved that life does indeed go on. With the right support from managers it is good to hear you can manage the times that you feel depressed by working together to negotiate reasonable adjustments.

Your experience and compassion is obviously helping your service users in their recovery too.