“It’s ok not to be ok” - NHS staff speak out to raise mental health awareness

03 February 2021

Ahead of this year’s national “Time To Talk” day, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP) staff have been sharing their personal challenges with mental health.

Sheena Cumiskey, Chief Executive of CWP, said: “We are very grateful to the staff who have spoken out about their own personal mental health ahead of Time to Talk day and shown that it is ok not be ok. The wonderful series of interviews, shared within a one-off wellbeing magazine, demonstrate how conversations about mental health have the power to make a big difference.”

Staff Nurse Rachel Symons has struggled with her mental health since she was 13. She has been diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) and is a keen advocate for mental health having delivered a TED talk on the subject, written an online book and a series of lessons for schools.

She said: “If looking at the classic symptoms of CPTSD, I am text book, although unless you really know me, you probably wouldn’t realise. I struggle with anxiety, especially in crowds. I have difficulty trusting people and forming deep relationships as I tend to keep my guard up.”

She continued: “I am on a bit of a mission to challenge stigma by improving education and understanding about mental health, especially in schools, as my previous job was a teacher. If people don’t understand the causes of poor mental health, then how can we expect them to know how to look after it?”

Before becoming a Mental Health Nurse for CWP, Julie Sheen was once an inpatient on CWP’s mental health wards following significant life events which affected her mental wellbeing.

She said: “Things eventually came to a head when I took a significant overdose of medication I was prescribed for a coexisting serious physical health condition. I was admitted as an inpatient, initially on the Wirral and then transferred nearer to home in Chester.”

“Following my patient experience I realised exactly what a difference I could make to supporting people with managing their mental wellbeing and their recovery. This time I had a broader perspective and understanding of the difference you can make. Also that sometimes it is not a quick fix but requires commitment and an individualised approach.

Sheena Cumiskey continues: “We know that the more conversations we have, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down, helping to end the stigma people with mental health problems are made to feel. As a Trust, we are committed to supporting Time to Talk day and never has it been more important to have an open conversation.”  

If your mental or emotional state quickly gets worse or deteriorates, this can be called a ‘mental health crisis’. In this situation, it is important to get help quickly.

Please call 0800 145 6485 for dedicated local support. The phone line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is open to people of all ages – including children and young people. If you feel that you do not require urgent help, but would like more information to support your own mental wellbeing or that of someone you know please visit www.cwp.nhs.uk/crisis

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