May 20, 2013

LouiseI have come a long way since I first became involved with Time to Change, almost two years ago. At that time I was determined that something needed to be done to stop the stigma around the subject of mental health.

I had already written a book about my own experiences 'Surviving Schizophrenia: A Memoir' in an effort to normalise and help to explain the condition and I was pleased to be able to help Time to Change to spread their anti-stigma message at the Bournemouth Roadshow.

I was nervous, though, wondering how I would cope with speaking to people in public about my diagnosis. To my surprise, I greatly enjoyed the event.

I attended a Time to Change event in Brighton

Then, about a year ago, I attended another Time to Change event, this one held in Brighton. It was for public speaking training. It was very informative and turned out to be very useful later in the year when I spoke to psychology staff and students at Newcastle University on the subject of recovery from serious mental illness or, as I prefer to term it now, emotional distress.

I have also attended two Rethink Members' Days, the first in London late in 2011, the second in Nottingham towards the end of last year. I gave evidence to the Schizophrenia Commission regarding my opinions of the illness and the case study I wrote was included in their report.

The more I've talked about mental health, the easier it has become

I have found that the more conversations I have engaged in about mental health, the easier it has become. I have come a long, long way from the person I was, who never divulged her diagnosis to a soul and was terrified that it would one day be discovered. And the great thing is that, in helping other people to understand that there is no shame in mental health problems, I have helped myself too. It has been an extremely cathartic and healing experience, to speak openly about what I have been through.

I have become much more educated about mental health and developed a deep and enduring interest in the subject - I have even started to study Psychology at A level, with a view to undertaking postgraduate study (I have a first degree in Law).

I am proud to be a Time to Change Champion

Through all this, I have kept up with my blog, 'Schizophrenia at the Schoolgate'. While writing this blog I have become aware of a worldwide network of people who are dedicated to changing attitudes towards the mentally ill. I have come to believe that the quickest way to change the stigma around schizophrenia would be to change the name of the condition. However, campaigns to educate the public, such as that undertaken by Time to Change, are a valuable service. I will always think fondly of Time to Change as the organisation which helped me take my first steps to being publicly open about my experiences.

I am proud to be a Time to Change Champion and look forward to participating in more opportunities to use my skills to help their cause in the future.

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What are Time to Change Champions?

Time to Change Champions are people with lived experience of mental health problems (including carers) who campaign to end mental health discrimination in their communities.

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