..I would never imagined that today I would be attending my own retirement do. It really doesn’t seem that long ago that I strolled nervously, up to the front doors of Fairfield Hospital, to enquire about voluntary work within the old Victorian asylum. Never once have I regretted choosing this path.
Watching the recent programs coming from Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam) , England’s first psychiatric hospital, brought back early memories of my training, work on the wards and visiting people’s homes as a community psychiatric nurse. Working for the NHS and particularly in the field of mental health, whether it be with children, adults or the elderly, has always been so rewarding and I have received so much more than I could have ever given.
Along the way I have experienced and learnt so much, but with mental health being such a large field, I have only really just scraped the surface. I am however very passionate about a few values and beliefs that I have collected over the last twenty plus years. These aren’t rocket science, and dear reader you may indeed disagree with some or all of them (which you have every right to do). Please excuse my boldness for sharing my top ten with you, if I haven’t already done so!
So here goes…
Deborah’s Top 10 pointers towards good mental health.
1) To improve someone else’s mental health, it is important, to first make sure you take good care of your own. That way you can act as a good role model.
2) It is important to talk about mental health. Mental health, is something we all strive for. Mental health is not mental illness. Nobody is mentally healthy all of the time. Its OK to talk about mental health and mental illness, it is part of life.
3) Time is the most precious of resources and the most valuable gift we can give to another human being.
4) The mind and body are part of the same system. It’s important to take good care of your brain. How many of you know what the brain needs in order to remain as heathy as possible? It has both physical and mental requirements. Think LAMBSS (see earlier posts)
5) How you think or feel on the inside or the way you act on the outside will have a direct effect on the other two. So changing how you think will in turn change the way you feel and behave. You can effect how this happens for someone else by being conscious about how you respond to them. Take for example, a simple smile, besides increasing your own serotonin levels, it can do the same for the receiver.
6) So once again (I think this one’s worth repeating), never underestimate the effects of what you do, think or feel and the effects it has on the physical body and mind. Just changing how you breathe, stand or think, changes your physiology and can reduce anxiety.
7) The world is not as it is, it is the way YOU perceive it, don’t presume other people perceive the world in the same way.
8) If we want to have mentally healthy children we need to start with mentally healthy adults. Working within children’s mental health means working with the whole family and system.
9) To have mentally health staff who are in the best possible place to care for patients, managers need to act as good role models and provide the same level of care and support as they would expect their staff to provide for their patients.
10) Nobody’s perfect, you won’t always get it right, it is often the mistakes that we make along the way that teaches us the greatest lessons. There is no such thing as failure only feedback.
For the last eight years, I have been working for Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, and I feel very grateful for the support and guidance the trust has given to me. The different managers, I have had along the way, were generous and trusting enough to give me the autonomy I needed to be creative. This allowed me the opportunity to start up the unique Step2, Early Intervention Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Step2 is a credit to all the hardworking members of the team who together continue to stick by its principles of being, innovative, flexible, creative, accessible and empowering. Starting with practically a blank sheet and a PA with a wooden box for an office, we launched a conference that set the high standards we set out to deliver. When waiting lists grew we adapted and changed the way we worked, if one system didn’t work we tried another. With the foundations of strong theoretical knowledge, a wealth of skills and experience combined with a passion to make a real difference Stép2 does more than deliver a great service in a Hertfordshire. This last year hasn’t been the easiest, but the Step2 team has pulled together and supported each other and I for one couldn’t feel prouder of having had the privilege of working within such an amazing team of dedicated people. I have been fortunate enough to receive high praise and even awards for my own achievements, but Step2 has never been about me, it is about what can be achieved when a group of passionate caring people come together with a common goal and purpose and I have no doubt that their shared vision will continue for a long time yet to come.
So today may mark the end of one particular journey for me, but I don’t think you will have seen the last of me yet. I have a few more creative ideas up my sleeve and there is no way I am going to allow a touch of Myeloma keep me down.
I am looking forward to meeting up with colleagues old and new, at Starfish House today. I shall look on today as being a time to reflect with a sense of joy and pride and be thankful for having had the opportunity to have worked in a job that I loved.
Not everyone is that lucky.