Guest post- Debbie Fox

“As an involvement & experience officer, one of the most rewarding aspects to our work in the Involvement Team is telling new staff what can be achieved through genuine involvement. Each month for four days, an audience of around 60-100 new staff are guided through a huge amount of information about the work of our Trust and the support they can expect as new staff members.

The Involvement & Experience Team present the first session on day one. New staff hear about involvement before the Chief Executive presentation.. The message is clear.  Service users, carers, families, friends and Trust public members come first.

Debbie is a remarkable woman who has become a Trust Staff Member. Read her inspiring presentation to a packed induction October 2014”

Jane Danforth – Involvement Team

Each time I am asked to speak to new staff members I wonder how I can inspire you. My story is really no different to the millions of other stories that those who suffer with mental health problems have to tell. 1 in 4 of us – in theory 25% of this room will suffer with or know someone that suffers with their mental health. Take a look around the room and think about that for a minute 25% of this room – that a huge amount of people.

I have spent time on a ward which was without a doubt, one of the most harrowing experiences of my life, years in therapy, hated myself, hurt myself to point of being hospitalised. Had and indeed still take medications. I have tried the patience of those I love and care about.

I have run my own businesses and been very successful and then watched it all disappear. I have been unemployed and unable to work – two very different sides of that coin. I have been in receipt of benefits and the shame and frustration that is associated with them. I have looked and entertained alternative therapies

I have hidden myself away, loathing the thought of other people, even strangers seeing this pathetic creature. I have wanted to and tried to end my life believing that I had nothing left to live for and enduring emotions that I could scarcely describe but couldn’t bear to live with. I have been alone and isolated despite the fact that at 46 years of age I have never spent a night on my own. I have lived with the shame and embarrassment of being me.

However I have also found support, encouragement, friends and understanding in the most unusual of places. I have enjoyed and welcomed the rich diversity the world has to offer and I have laughed and smiled. I have learnt to accept my illness and embrace it.

So what now, I am a mother to 2 amazing children. I am a wife to a husband who has supported me every step of the way. I am a daughter to my parents who despite all the pain and heartache I caused were and still are incredibly proud of me. I am a sister to an amazing woman who loves me without question despite the fact that we are polar opposites. I am a friend to those I am lucky enough to be privileged to call friends.

I have been and still am a volunteer at this trust hence the pink lanyard – look out for them because they are the people who can really help you understand. I am also a member of staff within this trust, since February 2014 and I work at Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s Wellbeing College – part of Nottingham Recovery College, and that is because of the support I received from involvement.

I help to teach others by using my lived experience that there is a life after mental illness. This makes a massive difference. It is one of the richest areas of my life and a privilege to be part of. Seeing students come and learn and understand about their problems is an incredible reward. I get to see them be able to leave their home for the time in years, understand themselves and make some sense out of all the confusion around mental health.

I get to see them make friends support each other and feel comfortable because they are not judged. They grow and smile with genuine happiness because their live has value and meaning. They have hope, are in control and can assess opportunities. Students are also given time, have a choice and are listened too. If you can take that into your work with patients I feel that you won’t go far wrong.

This trust really gets under your skin- in a positive way. You will meet some wonderful people along the way and it is they who will inspire you in numerous ways but not least because of their courage to overcome adversity and their willingness to lead a normal life.

I would encourage each and every one of you to visit the Involvement centre and the Recovery College and learn how they can help you help your patients. This trust is about integration.  Between physical and mental health, between patients and staff, between colleagues and integration between different departments.

So back to my original dilemma – I don’t need to inspire you – the people whom you will be working with will do that far better than anyone else.

I am Debbie Fox and I have mental health problems but I’m also just Debbie