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World Mental Health Day: a very personal perspective

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World Mental Health Day poster

Birthdays, good days and bad days

World Mental Health Day is also my birthday, 10 October. How apt, with me having a mental health condition. Bi-polar, hmm, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

For those who don’t understand my condition, I always remember Stephen Fry saying:

“It’s like the weather, you have cold, rainy, dark days, but then you also have bright, warm, sunny days. They never stay the same.”

What - or should I say - who is important to me in my life? I have a difficulty in letting people into my world, as I have been hurt and let down many times. But, I’m glad to say I have a handful of people I can now trust. I say trust, as it’s so important, otherwise you just tell the professionals what they want to hear and that won’t help me in the long run.

Going back to my handful of people I can trust – my first contact, when I’m not well, is with my social worker, Adriana. When Adriana became my social worker, after the previous one had left, I thought Oh, here we go, starting all over again, learning to trust someone.”

But this time was different. I remember the call asking if she could come and see me. Well, to my surprise, we had already met, as part of her interview and assessment day at Thurrock Coalition, a user led organisation where I participate as a member.

a hand shake signifying partnershipPositive first impressions

I remembered Adriana well. As part of the interview feedback card, I had specifically written Whoever gets this lady, would be very lucky, as not only would she do her job, but she would go above and beyond her call of duty.”

It turned out that I was that lucky lady, but - as I’m in my twilight years - I can be a little hard work for anyone, however, Adriana took on the challenge!

Not long after Adriana took the job, I went into crisis. I can remember sitting with the duty team at the community mental health team and Adriana walked passed me. She was shocked to see me there and concerned that I hadn’t contacted her. She also looked a little upset. But I told her that it wasn’t her, it was me, as we had only just met and it takes me some time to trust someone.

She said she understood and could she come and see me next Tuesday at 2:30pm. Tuesday came and at 9am there was a knock on the door, yes, it was Adriana! To my shock I said “I thought I was seeing you at 2:30pm?” She smiled, came in and said: “I want to see the real Toni, not the Toni that’s done her nails, her hair and makeup and puts on on a smiley face. I want to see the pain you’re going through, and I’m here to help you.”

After that, I knew Adriana had another important quality – empathy. The third key quality for me is professionalism, and whenever I’m in need of support Adriana does all she can, in a calm, collected, friendly and professional way. Once again, I am that lucky lady.

Good social work has really made a difference to my life.


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