"People should know how we are as human beings, not mental health patients, but individuals"

“I was very insular and isolated with schizophrenia. It was the symptoms that isolated me rather than the stigma. I self-stigmatised, however. My family were quite ostracising. I was diagnosed in the days when families were embarrassed, hesitant, reticent and rather than get to know, they went away. So for a period of thirty/forty years I just stayed very quietly to myself and didn’t do much.

I had worked in the health service for about fourteen years. I had a very understanding nursing sister who allowed me to be off work and always come back to the fold. I managed to hold this job down which gave me value in the community. Once I left that I became just a person who was soulless, I had nothing of myself that I was giving.

When I developed this neurological problem I became unable to mobilise. I realised then that people were noticing me, helping me to go where I needed to go. But when you have a mental health condition you still need help to get from A to B. Because people can’t see the condition, you don’t get the help.

Kindly organisations such as CAPS, Advocard and See Me, supported me. I had a course with See Me to start speaking, and CAPS allowed me to practice. There was an advocacy worker in CAPS who allowed me to represent them.

I had to present to the Academic Society and all of a sudden I got confidence, I was allowed to spread my wings a bit and to discover I wasn’t alone in wanting to promote the fact that people should know how we are as human beings, not mental health patients, but individuals with thoughts, feelings and giving. We all have something that is important in our lives that is of value to other people, as they are to us, and that should be allowed.

For the last twelve years of my life I have been campaigning and doing all sorts of things to promote and represent. I’m now retiring from it.

I started off being told, when I was very young and first diagnosed, that I would never have a life or contribute. I did actually contribute. But then I was put back into a long-term hospital and now, at the end of my life, instead of alienating myself from my community as I did in the first place, I’m now part of my community and I campaign for them to allow my hospital community of elderly people to hopefully be incorporated into the community outside and the community outside to come to them.”

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