A chat with Marie Gabriel – Head of the East London NHS Foundation Trust

Guest Post by Rhiannon Long

“In the Caribbean, which is my heritage, there’s a saying – they who feels it knows it. If you feel comfortable with someone, someone you think will understand you, you’re more likely to raise concerns.”

Marie Gabriel is head of the East London NHS Foundation Trust – a body which provides mental health and community services across East London. She recently chaired a podcast about improving the experiences and representation of BAME staff in the NHS. For her, having a diverse and representative workforce is vital in improving the experiences of people using mental health services.

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World Mental Health Day – Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World

                    Guest Post by Jennifer Richards

The dismissive idea of the ‘snowflake generation’ suggests that vulnerability and being considerate is a weakness, but young people are the ones paving the way through their honesty, activism and brilliance. Whether it’s Amika Georgia, who created the #FreePeriod campaign, the students from Never Again who organised the March for Our Lives, or all the young people I see starting feminist, queer and mental health societies at their school, I’m inspired by young people on a daily basis.

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With university counselling in short supply, what happens when services stop?

Guest Post by Rhiannon Long

One of the most important steps in institutional mental health provision is providing that link between service and user. Bridging the gap, and ensuring you’re connecting the person to the right service, is key. But what happens when mental health services stop? What happens when you’re no longer meeting the requirement threshold, when the service closes down, or money simply runs out? Undergoing mental health treatment can feel like a safety blanket, but what happens when that blanket is pulled out from under your feet?

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A response to the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee report – A Long Way From Home

The Corston report, published in March 2007, showed dramatic change was needed in how women were treated in the criminal justice system: outlining the need for a more holistic, women-centred approach. Yet, more than ten years later, little progress has been made – with the government continuing to implement policies and practices that undermine rather than support women’s recovery.

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The Road To Recovery

                    Guest Post by Sarah Wilson

It was 2009 and I was erratically driving up the M1 in the midst of a psychotic episode. Everything was altered in my mind and I believed all sorts of things with bizarre religious connotations. I felt fear like no other. It was like being trapped awake in your own nightmares and you can’t leave them.

A bipolar disco was going off in my head by the time I reached Liverpool. How I got there alive, I will never know. I was driving but my eyes had been closed for a lot of the journey. I remember sitting in the car with all different colours dancing before me. It was certainly surreal in hindsight.

I then drove to Wales where I was sectioned, let go and re-sectioned in Warrington. It was when I was then taken to Herts that all my problems escalated.

In 2007, I’d received a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and now the health care professionals, including the Psychiatrist, took away all my bipolar drugs. This included my anti-psychotic medication, even though I was still very ill with psychosis. I was then also denied a comorbid bipolar diagnosis.  The psychiatrist even said he would say I didn’t have psychosis and I was responsible for any crime I committed.

However, I was still very ill when they released me from hospital. I quickly got continually into trouble with the police as I was so hyped up and psychotic.  I also ended up homeless and finally in prison as the hospital wouldn’t take me in.

The whole experience was harrowing and in prison they finally diagnosed me with bipolar and medicated me. But prison did have one positive aspect: I met Wish, and Penny would regularly come and see me. I was very grateful for her support, and I am still now. It was needed at such a hard time in my life and really helped me get through the experience.

There is no doubt that you can’t really imagine what prison is like until you experience it personally. All those nights and a lot of the day trapped behind a great steel door. Alone with your thoughts with a TV to distract you from going utterly mad.

It was the worst experience of my life and, worst of all, I wouldn’t have been there at all if the mental health team had done their jobs like they did in 2012. The sad thing is I never got any redress or compensation for my treatment at their hands. I feel cheated, especially when I heard that if I’d been given a diagnosis of bipolar, the charges would have been dropped against me and I wouldn’t have been in prison. Instead, I got fined and further taken to court for crimes I’d committed when psychotic and on a bipolar breakdown.

When I recovered from my acute mental illness and left prison, I went to work for Wish in a voluntary capacity. Now I’m a Peer Consultant for them, which is rewarding work. It is nice to give back to a charity who helped me when I literally felt like I had no-one in the world left there for me. The work that Wish does is vital for women like me – who else fights our corner?

It was also in 2009 that I met my DBT therapist.  He worked with me for four and a half long years to get me to the position I’m in now. It was hard work, but ultimately it improved my life no end. I’m a completely different person in how I cope with regulating my emotions.  ’m more confident, stable and self-assured. I learned mindfulness to help calm my mind and distress tolerance to self soothe. The module interpersonal effectiveness was also good in helping me interact with people.

I did have a disheartening bipolar psychosis relapse in 2012 when I tried to come off my medication, but it was more contained as I was kept in hospital and medicated. I never added to my criminal record and the right combination of drugs was found that kept my mood balanced.

It’s been a long journey but a worthy one.  If I can do it so can you. Now I have a job a few days a week in a local shop. Things are looking up. And thank you Wish for all your support over the years. It means a lot.