‘I'm sharing this awful picture and my story to help increase understanding of the impact of mental illness’
In recent years, great strides have been made to treat mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety as real mental issues, rather than taboo afflictions or personal shortcomings. We still have a long way to go, but a woman by the name of Mandy Stevens is using her recent battle with mental illness to ensure we progress a little faster.
Stevens, a registered nurse, also happens to be a former NHS Director of Mental Health. While this might be perceived as an embarrassing symptom of failure, both personal and professional, Stevens is speaking freely about the sudden collision between her health and her profession.
In a lengthy, enlightening discussion with BBC News, she opened up about everything the public might want to know in the hopes that it would generate just a little more acceptance for those cursed with these illnesses.
She made her struggle public by sharing a comprehensive, personal post on her LinkedIn page. It’s entitled From “NHS Director to mental health inpatient in 10 days,” and a complete transcript of her missive is available below.
The 29-year veteran of the health services world noticed in November that symptoms of depression had appeared quickly and were manifesting rapidly. The fallout, her treatment, and her recovery are all discussed in the transcript of the post below.
Her words conjure up the cliche “I never thought this was going to happen to me,” to remind everyone reading that mental illness can strike anyone. As in her case, it’s not always a slow burn. She went from the onset of depression to suicidal ideation within a week. By day 10, she was institutionalized.
This woman was a leader in the field of mental health studies and refused to she could succumb to mental illness. Now she wants us all to realize, through her trials, that we have to stop pretending mental illness can be ignored and start educating ourselves.
Here’s the entire statement:
Perhaps not the most flattering photo of me, but I'm sharing this awful picture and my story to help increase understanding of the impact of mental illness and to celebrate my recovery.
Mental illness will affect 1 in 4 of us during our lifetime and I guess now it's my turn.
I am recovering from the most terrible depression that ripped the heart and soul out of me. Very unexpectedly an NHS Acute Inpatient ward in Hackney has been my home for the past 12 weeks.
Mental Health Professional ~ from Healthcare Assistant to Director of Nursing
As I have worked in mental health services for 29 years, one would think I would be immune to mental illness. I am a Registered Mental Health Nurse with 15 years experience as a clinician and latterly 14 years as a manager and then Director. But there is no immunity; mental illness can come out of nowhere and affect anyone at any time.
From initial symptoms of depression to admission to a mental health unit 10 days later via the Crisis Team, depression ripped the rug out from under my feet and emptied my whole being. I have been completely disabled and incapacitated by this illness.
If I had been in hospital with a broken leg, or a physical problem, no doubt I would have been sharing amusing photos of my drip stand, the signed plaster cast and the hospital food; laughing with my family, friends & extended Social Media community. Instead I have hidden myself away, scared of my own shadow and told very few people. Sad to say, I have also been embarrassed, shy, suicidal, phobic, anxious and scared of everything.
This selfie, taken late November, shows a Mandy that no one will recognize: tearful, distraught, matted hair, frightened, withdrawn, desolate & desperate. So so so far from who I normally am; a confident, competent, extrovert, professional, independent woman. This is what mental illness has the power to do.
Thank you and long live our NHS
Massive thanks to my Mum who has taken a 6-hour return journey every week to visit me, my family and a few wonderful close friends who have kept me going, even through my darkest days.
Thanks also to the totally amazing NHS team at East London NHS Foundation Trust who have been awesome 24 hours a day, Sundays, Christmas Day and everyday.
The nurses here have humbled me completely and reminded me of my pride in my profession. The management and the whole multi disciplinary team have supported me through this nauseous journey and given me strength and hope to keep going. Without exception, they have been compassionate, professional, kind and caring. Long live the NHS.
CQC - Outstanding indeed
East London Foundation Trust is one of only 2 Mental Health Trusts in the country to receive an “outstanding” rating by the Care Quality Commission. I have experienced this outstanding care in my hour of need and it has been truly remarkable.
Discharge, Recovery, Fragility... and stigma
I'm sharing my story now as I feel strong enough to face the world again. I was officially discharged from City & Hackney Centre for Mental Health on Friday 13th January 2017.
I was supposed to be spending Christmas at the Hope Orphanage I support in Ghana again this year, but instead I celebrated with an interesting and diverse mix of 20 housemates, hospital Christmas Dinner and some extremely dedicated and lovely nurses. I will see Ghana soon, God willing, and the orphans will get their belated Christmas presents.
I initially shared this post on Facebook only, but I was overawed by the response I got from my friends and family, particularly about addressing the stigma relating to mental illness… Hundreds of comments along the lines of “I never thought someone like you could go through this”. Well guess what... we can and we do; mental illness does not discriminate.
Look out for yourselves, your friends and family, mental illness can affect anyone at any time. There is no health without mental health.
Please don't pity me for having a mental illness. Instead, wish me well for my discharge and full recovery.
I lost my mind, lost my self esteem, lost my pride, lost my sense of who I am, lost my confidence, lost my job & my income, lost my driving license and my independence... but I am slowly picking up the pieces... like a smashed vase, glueing itself together in to a beautiful mosaic. I will be strong again. I will be ok.
I am now being supported by a wonderful range of community services provided by the local Trust, the mental health charity MIND and Hackney Borough Council. I feel positive, optimistic, re-energised... and I've got my smile back.
Bring on 2017; it's gonna be a great year