Tackling stigma - part 2
Well, I did it!
Last time I wrote, I was about to help facilitate some anti-stigma training to staff at my local acute psychiatric hospital. I was incredibly nervous about it because less than two years ago, I was a patient there for 7 long months and really was not the easiest of patients, especially in the first few months. I think at some point, most nursing staff in the hospital probably met me, whilst trying to restrain and medicate me. Now, here I am, turning up as an ‘expert by experience’ delivering their training. I was more than a little anxious that they might see it as some kind of joke; in essence, I was afraid of stigma against me as a previous inpatient being in no position to do anything like this. But I went, despite my fears, and I did it!
There were staff in the session who I knew and who had treated me whilst I had been there but they were very pleased to see me in a completely different role and I even got a spontaneous round of applause after I introduced myself and gave a little bit of background about my journey since I’d come off my Section and left them. That really buoyed my confidence at the start of the session and allowed me to relax a little.
It was a good group for me to experience the training for the first time, they were talkative and receptive to what we had to say, which helped a lot since as a teacher, I know how awkward it can be when no one says anything in what is meant to be an interactive session! I did feel that they were very on board with the anti-stigma message already, which of course is great, and we all agreed that the training needs to reach out to as many staff in the Trust as possible to really drive home the message to those who may not be so well educated on the topic, at all levels. With this in mind, I am pleased to say that I have agreed to co-facilitate the next session too, which is at another local hospital, next month.
The feedback we got was great. People were really positive about having me there and found it interesting to hear a service user’s views and opinions. I have to admit that although I normally really struggle to see my own achievements or think I’ve done well, I did feel a tiny bit proud once the session was completed. It just goes to show how each one of us can make a difference and that everyone can achieve things you might have never thought possible when it is very dark inside.
I decided not to visit the ward where I was treated as I think it would have been too triggering right now. I still have a lot of unresolved traumatic memories of my time there and I thought it better to quit whilst I was ahead rather than push things too far. That said, I did manage to see one of the HCAs who had worked on the ward when I was there and that was so nice. She always really cared for me when she was on shift and actually took a real interest in what was going on for me, which made such a difference. I was very happy to see her, as well as one of the Occupational Therapists who worked with me a lot during my last stay, and they were pleased to unexpectedly see me, and see me much more well, too.
So, I’m pleased to report success all round! I am so glad that I pushed myself through my worries and fears. I have to say though, I was very glad to be wearing a visitor ID throughout!