Over the past year I’ve begun a few lived experience roles with charities and research networks, using my voice to help improve mental health services in the UK.
As you know, I’m particularly passionate about raising awareness of the trauma-informed care we so desperately need and deserve.
Last week I had meetings online, including with the Lived Experience Advisory Group at the Samaritans, helping plan their future strategy.
It was also a big week, because I went to London to do some filming! ?
Of course, I was really excited about this opportunity and really anxious. I’ve been learning, and embracing, that it’s OK to be both.
I’m working with researchers at City, University of London on a 5-year project – the ASsuRED study. Researchers are developing and testing new interventions to better help people who present at hospital Emergency Departments in suicidal or mental health crisis.
Well, I’ve been there, done that. I have had many awful experiences in this exact situation, which caused me immense further harm and retraumatisation.
I’m now absolutely passionate about changing these mental health and emergency care systems for the better. It’s sad there’s a problem in the first place, but great that our voices are finally being listened to.
It’s even more poignant for me because when I was 15, I had a book published. ‘How Teenagers Think’ was published in 2007 by White Ladder Press. I had a speaking agent, and spoke at many conferences around the UK, Europe and in the media. I stopped because I was struggling massively with my own trauma, but didn’t realise it, despite seeking all kinds of help from every single mental health professional you could imagine.
And now it has come full circle, with the opportunity for my voice to be heard again, this time for something even more meaningful. ✨
It’s also important to point out this is a living not lived experience for me. My life has many barriers I am still trying to overcome on a daily basis, which makes this work extra hard. But it also makes me even more determined to keep going.
With thanks to the support of Sally, the researcher, and Jane, the videographer, I felt well supported in preparation for, during and also after the filming. This made such a big difference to my experience, especially from an emotional perspective. It’s really important that projects involving people with lived experience take care in this way.
If you are keen to use your voice in a similar way, I recommend searching online for lived experience mental health roles. If you’re in the UK, the NSUN (National Survivor User Network) email newsletter has lots of these opportunities.
If you are a researcher, charity or other organisation keen to embed lived experience in your work, please contact me to see how I could help you implement & benefit from this. You can read more about the work I do around this on the Lived Experience page on this website.
All of this is keeping that fire burning inside me. ? I’m more convinced than ever that we need better trauma informed care and healing spaces, and now is the time for it.
It’d be awesome to hear what you’re working on, and if we can help each other create the change we so deserve. ??✨