Tag Archive | Mental disorder

Time To Change

“Time to Change” is a mental health initiative run by the charities “Mind” and “Rethink mental Illness” to fight the stigma attached to mental illness. I am a Time to Change Champion and Rethink activist and whenever possible I volunteer to help this worthy cause.

As someone who has suffered with depression for more than 30 years, and actively committed to changing people’s attitudes towards mental illness, you can probably imagine my shock, disgust and outrage at the news this week that ASDA and Tesco were selling Halloween “mental patient” outfits.

Thankfully, the uproar was so great that both supermarkets have been forced to remove their products from sale and have pledged large sums of money as donations to both Mind and Rethink in recompense.

Whilst I applause this turnaround, I despair that two huge corporate giants actually thought it acceptable in the first place to sell these outfits. Who sanctioned this? Did they think? What is their perception of mental illness and why? Did they really feel that people would dress up as a mental patient for Halloween and why? Personally I find this difficult to comprehend but at the risk of being over-sensitive, I would like to understand more about the root of this train of thought before I make my final judgement. It’s all very well to make a hefty monetary donation but I would like to see our mental health charities following up on this to find out why it was deemed acceptable in the first place. It is simply disgusting and needs to be stopped now.

It really is “Time To Change”

Me, wearing my mental health patient costume.

Me, wearing my mental health patient costume.


Without Prejudice

“Without prejudice” is an article published in today’s Sunday Telegraph Magazine “Stella” about mental illness. “Mental illness-be it schizophrenia, depression, autism or OCD-needn’t be the end of a career” and 5 women, including me, were interviewed for our experiences.

I don’t have a link to an online article I can give you, but I will try and photocopy/scan it in tomorrow.

In the meantime, if you go out and buy the paper, the article appears on pages 54-59 of the magazine.

“Without prejudice” by Bridget Freer.

Photographs by Laura Pannack.

Today is World Mental Health Day 2012

Raising awareness of mental health issues is critical if we are to reduce the stigma attached to mnetal illness and help people recover in a safe and understanding environment.

Today is World Mental Health Day and the focus is on the “Black Dog” that is depression.

If you know someone who is depressed and don’t know how to deal with it take time today to find out more about this illness and read up on how you can help.

If you suffer with depression yourself, you must seek help. This is a treatable condition and you will get better. It just takes time. Go and see your GP or contact a relevant organisation for more information.

Information is available from;

Depression Alliance


Royal College of Psychiatrists




Broken Light Collective

Broken Light Collective 

 ” We are photographers living with, or affected by, mental illness; supporting each other one photograph at a time”

What a wonderful idea and there are not only some gorgeous photos but some very humbling and moving stories written about people living with and recovering from mental illness.

Take a look.

Job interviews-scary monsters

Goodness me! That was scary. I had a job interview today for the first time in more than 8 years.

I pride myself of my flexible and outward-looking perspective on life. I understand that at almost 50 years of age, that at some point I will need to bow out gracefully and allow the younger generation to come in and supply the dynamic and exciting solutions to the challenges that we face now. That’s progress. But, I’m just not ready.

I had an interview today. Not for a paid position, but for a voluntary post on the Regulatory Board of  the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP). I had prepared, and I am passionate about helping those dealing with mental illness from both a professional and personal perspective but let’s not beat about the bush here, I was grilled relentlessly about my suitability for the role.

This was no surprise as it is just the approach I would have taken when dealing with such a serious committment and whether I do or whether I don’t get the job, I respect the decision made by the interview committee. Mental health and its management is dear to my heart and it has to be dealt with properly. BACP  takes the regulation of counsellors and therapists very seriously and whilst registration with them will be voluntary,  I can only hope that anyone who is involved in advising those with mental health will undertake the necessary training and continued professional and educational development to ensure that vulnerable people are given the best care available.

Anyone with mental health problems deserves proper treatment from qualified professionals. There is no room for amateurism in the treatment of mental illness and only those who have been trained in the various treatments available and their advantages and risks should be in this privileged position. Unless a person is trained properly, how can they possibly determine the best treatment? The best therapist?

I for one would not be so arrogant as to advise someone unless I had studied mental health and the therapies available.

Perhaps this is because I am a risk management adviser by profession.  

Or perhaps my common sense gene kicks in and tells me that I shouldn’t mess with something I know very little about, despite my personal experience.

By all means seek help. But seek professional help, from someone who is qualified to advise.

Depression-back on track

Thankfully, the last 6 months have seen my mental health stabilise and I have enjoyed a sustained period of “wellness”. I am still wary that low mood can take over again but as soon as I spot the signs I’m on the case immediately and take preventive measures to stave off a relapse. It’s not easy and it sometimes takes a lot of energy and determination but I’m getting there and feel that I have the dreaded “dog” under control. I have to admit that sometimes I am still forced to tell some little white lies to gain some precious “me time” but on the basis that in the medium and long-term my actions benefit everyone, I don’t feel at all guilty and see it as managing my health to the best of my ability in the circumstances. Sadly, there are still too many people who don’t understand the ups and downs and unpredictability of mental illness and I’m not prepared to jeopardise my recovery just to accommodate the stubborn few. I am definitely back on track.

As far as helping and motivating others to come to terms with their mental health issues, cascading information and being proactive is concerned lots of things happened last week which gave me a long-awaited kick up the bum and reinforced my concern that there is still a lot of work to be done and there are too many people out there just waiting for help.

Firstly, I have an interview on Friday with the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) to be appointed a lay-member of their Regulatory Advisory Board. This is an exciting and amazing opportunity for me to become more involved in the field of mental healthcare provision and I will be able to contribute so much…….as long as the interview goes well and I am successful. I hope that they will see how passionate I am about certain matters and give me the opportunity to voice my concerns and suggestions for improvement. My head is bursting with ideas and I need a forum to voice them and (hopefully) gain access to a pool of resource able to help me put them into practice.

At work I have been quietly looking for people who are prepared to join me as a Mental Health Champion on the Disability Steering Group and this week, I have found three people who can help drive my initiatives forward. This is so important as I already have a full-time job and cannot spend the time I would like in developing my ideas into practical solutions for our employees. Small changes can make a huge difference but I can’t do it on my own. More people = more success.

My interview for the Sunday Telegraph magazine went well but won’t be published until later in summer when they get back to normal after the holidays. I look at the delay as a positive as by delaying publication, we will get a wider readership and more publicity. That can only be a good thing.

I am working a 4-day week this week then I am on holiday for 10 days. I need the break and I am looking forward to having my son back in the UK after his watersports holiday in Spain, seeing my sister and my newly engaged lovely niece Pippa and meeting my nephew’s two new kittens (to date, nameless).  

Roll on Thursday!

Angels & Demons

Firstly, apologies to any Dan Brown fans reading this post who maybe thought that the title refers to his 2000 bestseller, Angels & Demons. I hope you are not too disappointed.

Instead, during the week I was reminded of a famous quote by Tennessee Williams whilst I was discussing my experience of depression with a colleague. You may, or may not know that Williams was a homosexual in an age when being gay was less tolerated than today and it caused him much angst. When encouraged to “change” his sexuality his response was;

“If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels”

 Since openly admitting to my long-term experiences of depression I can identify with this as I feel strongly that I am a better person for having had this illness, battled through it and am now in a position to help others do the same. By diverting the energy previously used in hiding my illness and pretending to be someone I wasn’t, I am now much more creative and have found that I have rediscovered talents and abilities long forgotten and buried under the black clouds of depression.

Other advantages include me having a much more compassionate nature and attitude to others who may find themselves feeling vulnerable and not functioning in their personal, family or work environment. I find that I am much less judgmental than many and much more tolerant of people’s often uncharacteristic behaviour when clearly not themselves.

I have always been open and honest with my teenage son Will about my depression and low moods and he has often borne the brunt of them. He has grown up with an understanding of this illness and has always been a credit to himself, his friends, his teachers, his family and his football team regardless of difficult patches in his life when I have been unable to support him as much as I would have liked. He is by nature very caring and with the additional experience of living with a mum who is often debilitated by depression he has developed a tolerance towards any of his friends and school colleagues who show signs of stress and other mental illnesses such as mild Asperger’s syndrome and autism. His friends will often gravitate towards him for advice when needed and like me, he has had to learn to “offload” some of this responsibility occasionally so that his mood is not adversely affected. He does this admirably and I am confident that he will be an amazing support for all his friends in future.   

Watching TV this morning, I saw a feature about Angie Stevens who suffered very badly from post-natal depression and whose husband gave her some sketch books in the hope that she would be able to express herself by her drawing and return to something that she excels at. His astute gift worked and she gradually recovered by sketching her 3 children every day and writing a Blog about her experiences. Sketching is something she is good at which gave her confidence and something to focus on. Writing the Blog encouraged her to post regularly and again, was a big focus in helping her to recover.  

Check out Doodlemum it is simply brilliant.

And just think, if she hadn’t had her demons, we wouldn’t be sharing her “Angels” now.


A “heads-up”

Last week I was interviewed by a journalist who is putting together a feature for the Sunday Telegraphs’ magazine Stella. I understand that the article is about mental health/illnesses and that a few people and their illnesses will be featured.

I wasn’t sure whether, after the interview, I would be included in the feature but from the feedback I have received it looks positive so keep an eye out over the next few weeks and if I get to know exactly when it will be published I will let you know.

Depression gets a grilling in Parliament

Not before time, but what a fantastic idea!

 UK MPs discuss their battles with mental illness in Parliament, in public. Let’s not underestimate how powerful this can be. Joining their ex-colleague Alastair Campbell, who has been very open about his personal war with depression, several MPs describe their experiences of depression, post-natal depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) opening up the debate to a wider audience.

Talking about mental illness is the best way to eradicate the stigma and encourage others to seek help. Mental illness is not shameful, it is the norm. It is fast becoming the case that if you do not or have not suffered from mental illness, you are simply not normal. It is a human condition and sadly, unless we get rid of the old-fashioned attitudes towards mental illness, people will continue to suffer in silence.

Our MPs have shown us that talking about mental illness is incredibly powerful. Were they derided? No. The support they have all received has been overwhelmingly positive and this is primarily because we empathise with them. We have been there and need others to show us the way to become more open and honest about our condition.

As my readers will know, I am more than comfortable talking about my experiences of a life-long battle with depression knowing that it helps others.

Let’s hope that more people come forward and show that having mental illness is not a blight and in some cases, can be counted as a blessing.

UK politicians discuss mental health in Parliament.


Depression is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you have been trying too hard for too long.

I’m fed up…

no, not with life. With the constant stream of celebrities and high-profile sportsmen and women admitting to having depression. In itself this is not a bad thing, it’s just that it’s getting boring. Those of us who suffer with depression know how debilitating it is; know how it affects work and family and even with the spurt of admissions from well-known people over the past 12-18 months has anything changed?

I’m not sure. It all seems very “old hat” and repetitive. So what we need now  is for someone to highlight the next steps. What has the Government, NHS, businesses, charities, anyone done to improve treatment of depression and eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness? Undoubtedly it helps if more people talk about mental illness but someone needs to listen to the man and woman “on the street” too. Everyone who is struggling to cope under difficult circumstances not just those in the public eye.

I have particular sympathy with sportsmen and women with the ultimate in competitive personality  who don’t get the psychological support required in this day and age to cope with the extreme ups and downs of competition. That is a failing in our sporting structure that we are aeons behind other countries in looking after the mental health welfare of our sports stars but even so, they are only a small minority when considering the impact of depression on the population as a whole. Have Freddie, Stan, Brian et al had to endure a “fit to work” assessment from ATOS?  I’d be interested to know what the GB Olympic Committee have done to minimise the risk of post-Olympic depression as suffered by some after Beijing. 

I’m lucky. Having admitted to my depression 18 months ago, my employer has made mental health it’s priority for 2012 and is involved with several initiatives to try to help all employees who are debilitated by mental illness and to educate all employees in how to avoid stress-related depression. We are not perfect but we are trying. I hope that the recent revelations by the likes of Freddie and Stan lead to positive action being taken to help everyone.

Afterall I believe that this is no longer an illness suffered by the minority. It is more widespread that anyone can imagine.

Let’s DO something about it.