Kevin and Malcolm's Story
Kevin: I have suffered with psychosis and joined the Capital Project Trust, a charity that offers support to people with mental health problems. It helped to meet people who had similar experiences, and understood what I was going through. Through joining Capital my life started to change, and it has also given me the opportunity to make a difference. I became a volunteer and help to bring improvements to mental health services.
Malcolm: I suffer with PTSD and struggled by myself for seven years without much outside support. I eventually found Capital, where I met Kevin, and realised there were other people like me out there and that they were helping people like me. PTSD doesn’t go away, but I’ve not only found support at Capital, I’ve also found purpose, volunteering to bring about change that really works for people.
We came into contact with Sussex Partnership when Johnathan Beder, the Service Director for NW Sussex, came to one of our Capital meetings. It was a busy meeting and he stayed until the end. He opened the door and we stepped through it. It all started with some small meetings and ideas and it has evolved into bigger meetings with doors opening to other opportunities to improve services across the community. As Sussex Partnership are partners with Capital, we now have monthly meetings with Jonathan. We are now part of a group that visits and assesses Trust walk-in centres.
We look at all elements of the service user experience, for example, signage, accessibility, resources, how approachable the staff are, lighting, window size. People with mental health issues are often prone to anxiety, so this needs to be alleviated by the environment and atmosphere in these centres. We also sit on interview panels for staff recruitment at the Trust and assess people’s suitability from a service user perspective. It’s a fantastic step forward that, as service users, we’re able to work in partnership with the Trust to improve experiences for everyone.
Sussex Partnership take our opinions seriously. From looking at working models, to checking the roll out of new services and fund allocation, we can have an input on the small things and also the big issues. We’ve been involved in the Tier 2 redesign, for example, which aims to improve the network between all available services, organisations and charities. Everybody needs to be brought together to improve mental health. We’re proud to be involved in it.
Someone considering a career in mental health should be compassionate, honest and able to build trust. Good listening skills are essential, and the ability to step into someone else’s world for that time you are with them, to be present in that moment with a person, is essential. Treating everyone as an individual, not an illness. There are so many things that make a good mental health professional.
Our hope for the future is to keep working with Sussex Partnership to help the services evolve and to break the stigma around mental health. Anyone can be affected by mental health problems, no matter who they are.