Mental health problems affect one in four people, and this Thursday 6 February, communities, workplaces and schools are being encouraged to come together for Time to Talk Day. The day encourages people to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.
Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LPFT) has been talking to one of their former service users, Zoe Keeton, who is now employed by the Trust in one of their mental health rehabilitation wards.
Zoe was treated by LPFT in 2016 when she experienced a period of mental ill health, which included anxiety, agoraphobia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). She was unable to leave her house for a number of months, which impacted on her life and her family.
Zoe was admitted to the Charlesworth Ward at the Peter Hodgkinson Centre in Lincoln, a ward for people who are experiencing a severe, short term episode of mental illness. She also received support from the Trust’s community mental health team to develop the tools and techniques that could help keep her well.
Zoe wanted to give back to the Trust and raise awareness of mental health problems. She began fundraising for LPFT’s Charitable Funds and donated her time to the ward by volunteering and doing activities with patients on the ward.
While volunteering, Zoe spoke to the Trust’s Individual Placement and Support Service who support service users to get back into paid employment. Zoe was later employed by LPFT as a Clinical Apprentice and has since progressed into her current role of Occupational Therapist Assistant on a female rehabilitation ward in Lincoln.
Dr Beena Rajkumar was the Consultant Psychiatrist supporting Zoe. She said: “When I first met Zoe she was terrified by her diagnosis and of what that meant for her and her family.”
“Zoe was in a dark place, her confidence was low, she was tired and confused. Witnessing her recovery journey has been an absolute privilege. She has blossomed from victim to victor, and has embarked on a beautiful journey of self-understanding; finding what brings her joy in life, and using her pain as her purpose – to help others.”
Zoe now uses her experience to support service users on the ward. She said “I love being able to help people reach their goals. We all experience ups and downs in life; and I believe that we’re all in the same boat.”
“If you’re struggling at work, at home – or anywhere, please do not suffer alone. There are always people or services you can reach out to.”
“If I had asked for help earlier, then I wouldn’t have reached my breaking point. Just opening up about your mental health is incredibly important in order to begin that recovery journey. I am still working on my mental health, but I now know when I need time out to focus on self-care. By sharing my experiences I feel like I’ve managed to turn this negative in my life into a positive.”
Starting a conversation about mental health might seem daunting, but simply sending a text, checking in on a friend or sharing something on social media can break the ice. More tips can be found at: www.time-to-change.org.uk/timetotalkday