"The main thing I can bring out of my experience with mental health services is that no one stopped believing in me and no one gave up on me..."
Amy Mary Rose Herring is one of the youngest ever Governors at Sussex Partnership and is our Lead Governor. She is committed to ensuring the voice and views of people who have used mental health services are heard by health leaders.
Driven by personal experience, here Amy tells her own inspiring story:
What’s your experience of mental health services, Amy?
My overall experience of the NHS has been with mental health services, my first contact being when I was 12. Later, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at 14, alongside being diagnosed at 15 with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe depression. I had also spent a lot of time in different Pupil Referral Units because of my quite bad, challenging and disruptive behaviour, so was always just left alone.
No one had ever tried to help me. But the main thing I can bring out of my experience with mental health services is that no one stopped believing in me and no one gave up on me, even when I gave up on myself and thought my life was a failure and was not worth living anymore.
Even though, looking back, I was very difficult to cooperate with as a teenager, no one stopped trying. Everyone else thought I would not change, so there was no point in even considering to try and help. But my mental health team were the only ones - and probably the first - to help me. And if it was not for the mental health team and their perseverance, I would probably not be where I am today, or in general even still be here alive.
Why did you choose to become a governor for Sussex Partnership?
When I chose to become a Governor for Sussex Partnership at 18 I really did not know what to expect. I had never done anything like it before and it was all unfamiliar and brand new. I had no knowledge of how things worked. But I know from my experience of using mental health services that I wanted to give something back to the organisation that turned my life around and got me back on a route that I would have only dreamed of before.
What do you most love about your job as Governor?
It would be difficult to name what I most love about being a Governor at Sussex Partnership. I get to work alongside and meet some really inspirational people, I get to provide the voice of service users and staff in the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and make sure their interests are being listened to. But what I love the most about being a Governor is I get to see and hear about the work being done to improve and save people’s lives. In my own opinion, this is why we are all here, to help people. To say we will help people is a good thing, but to hear from service users or family members that they are grateful for our help, care and what we have done, that is the greatest thing.
What do you think makes the NHS so special?
From my own experience I know that the NHS is made up of passionate and dedicated individuals who want to help and care for others. I truly admire that. But what I particularly love is that the NHS thrives and becomes stronger even when things become challenging. The NHS has faced many challenges over the past 70 years, but it is still here. By looking at the NHS over the years, it has personally taught me not fear a challenge, but embrace it as it will only help you to learn, grow, improve and become much more resilient. That is what I think is special about our NHS; no matter how difficult, the NHS will always find a way to overcome a challenge and will always come out stronger than before.
What do you think the next 70 years hold for the NHS?
What I would dream to see in the next 70 years is that the NHS has not only became stronger, but has become an inspiration to countries all over the world. I sometimes need to remind myself of how truly grateful I am because when I look at other places in the world, there is no available healthcare or support to those in need. Either because a healthcare system has not been developed, or to access services it requires payment. I would love to see countries take inspiration from our NHS in the fact that it is available to anyone from any background and it does not exclude those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds from accessing services.