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Time to change

Mental health problems are common but nearly 9 out of 10 people who experience them say they face stigma and discrimination as a result. This can be even worse than the symptoms themselves.

We support Time to Change, which is England’s biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.

Read Kathy’s story to understand how stigma can affect people living with conditions like depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety disorders and how conversations about mental health can help strengthen friendships, aid recovery, break down stereotypes and take the stigma out of something that affects many of us.

Kathy’s story

Advocacy Focus Volunteer Peer Advocate Kathy talks about her own experience of mental health problems and how that motivated her to volunteer so she could help others to understand and access their rights.

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“I first came across Advocacy Focus when I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act myself. This was back in 2007 and I had never even heard of advocacy before and what the service can offer to people in my position.

I saw an Advocacy Focus leaflet while I was on the ward and put it in my bag to look at later. I was in a bad way at the time and didn’t actually put myself forward for help right then, but something rang a bell with me when it talked about volunteering and I vowed to myself that I would get involved in some way to help others when I was feeling better.

Looking back I have suffered with mental health problems since my early twenties and my first bad episode was when I was working as a travel rep in Spain where I became very obsessive and delusional. I was treated in a Spanish hospital for a while, but ended up being flown back to the UK with a mental health nurse – so this has been going on for a long time.

I struggled on with my illness for a number of years, battling through misdiagnoses and the wrong medication and all the agonies that go with that but it wasn’t until I had my third son in 2007 that I got so bad I had to be sectioned and was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

When you are suffering with mental health problems it feels like you become invisible and no one listens to you, it’s as if, just because you are mentally ill at the time, you are written off and no one takes your opinion seriously or even asks your opinion.

In my case shortly after being discharged I was faced with a tribunal to fight for incapacity benefits. Although I was feeling better than I did while I was under section, I was still in no fit state to deal with the tribunal panel and just panicked in the meeting. Luckily I had someone from Welfare Rights there with me as well as my husband and they were able to help me to understand what was going on and to ensure that I got what I was entitled to.

My family have been really supportive throughout my battles with this horrendous illness but there is only so much that they can help me with as working out social care and mental health systems can be a minefield.

I really do feel that if I had reached out to get advocacy support back in 2007 it would have made life a lot easier for both me and my family and that’s why I feel really passionate about being able to offer support to other people with mental health problems through my volunteering work at Advocacy Focus.

The first time I got positive feedback from a service user I had been to see I can’t tell you how much it moved me – it was a real boost to my confidence to think that I could actually help someone else and that’s not a feeling I’ve been used to in recent years. It really has changed my life.”


Recent Events

MENTAL Health was the workplace topic of conversation at the ‘Tea and Talk’ event held by Advocacy Focus on National ‘Time to Talk’ Day. The two-hour, lunchtime event was held for staff and volunteers to mark the annual nation-wide push to get people talking more openly about mental heath. ‘Time to Talk’ Day is organised by Time to Change, the campaign to change how we all think and act about mental health and clocked up 20,551 conversations about mental health on 2nd February, 2017.

Advocacy Focus, as a organisation that advocates for individuals with mental health issues firmly believes that mental health should be discussed as freely as physical health. The ‘Tea and Talk’ session was a chance to offer a safe and informal space for the team to open up about mental health and to learn about the support available to them. [/expand]


Other useful links and resources


For more information on Time to Change, please visit the website at http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/


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