Speaking up for mental health provision
Why would you like to be a community representative?
"Hi! I'm Zach and I've been on 'both sides of the fence' when it comes to mental health services, being a patient of many different services across the country since the age of 11 and over the last decade a professional working in both the NHS and charitable / third sector (currently as a therapist).
"I have experience helping to shape and develop mental health services to meet community needs; being a director of a mental health charity in Lincoln for three years and currently sitting on our neighbouring Lincolnshire's NHS Mental Health Trust's Council of Governors, representing service user interests across Lincolnshire and beyond.
"My passion for mental health is towards modernisation and accessibility of services - no postcode lottery, long waits or closed doors, with equality to physical healthcare in the NHS. With 1 in 4 of us experiencing a mental health issue, we all need to be acutely aware of and to fight for better when it comes to the wellbeing of our communities.
"I believe that with my experiences in mental health as service user and professional I have unique insights in to how services should be striving towards a person-centred and 'patient as expert' approach."
Tell us about you and your experience.
"I'm a Grimsby local, living in East Marsh having moved away from Lincoln just before the pandemic struck.
"Accessing appropriate services having being discharged from the Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LPFT) catchment area and trying to lift my care from where it was left back in Lincoln, especially during the pandemic, has proven to be a challenging and difficult endeavour - one that I am still fighting for.
"My experience lies in several areas, but foremost is having lived experience of mental health issues since the age of 11 until today - having a complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, fibromyalgia and a treatment-resistant clinical depression. I have been through 'the system' for many years and experienced many different services, experiencing a range of care from poor to excellent - and everything in between.
"As I grew up, I didn't want to just 'put aside' all the experiences of struggles I had (and continue to have) and wanted to galvanise that into something that could be productive - if I could help just one person that had gone through similar to myself it would be worth it.
"With that in mind, I trained as a psychiatric nurse in my twenties but due to a relapse of my health, had to sadly give that career up prematurely and re-trained as a therapist which is my current career path. Throughout my ten or so years working across the mental health sector, I have put on many hats, from training, developing and shaping services, to activism and public speaking. More recently I have been a senior therapist and director of a mental health charity (providing therapy to those desperate and unable to afford it privately) until moving up here to Grimsby and currently sit in my role as an appointed NHS Mental Health Service User Governor Representative for our neighbouring Lincolnshire, making sure the service user voice is heard across the NHS trust’s strategic vision for service provision for the future.
"Across my various roles over the last ten years I have taken a part in helping to manage, shape, develop and evolve service provision across the mental health sector and still campaign for change to this day. I intend to bring this mish-mash of collective experience in to the role of Membership Representative with NAViGO, and in so build strong ties between the communities of North East Lincolnshire and accessing and promoting positive mental health whilst giving a larger voice to those who access our services."
If you are elected as a representative, what do you want to achieve?
"Community awareness of mental health services and ease of access to said services is my number one priority with NAViGO, with service development coming in a close second.
"We are facing a mental health epidemic in the UK which we haven’t faced for many generations, brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. And, whilst we have a population larger to our (relatively!) neighbouring Lincoln, service provision is smaller. Secondary deaths with Covid are estimated to be upward of ~500,000 (deaths that are linked to Covid but not caused directly by it), with the large collateral being that of mental ill health and suicide.
"This is a shocking statistic and it is extremely worrying in general; let alone that media and the NHS do not seem to be shouting from the rooftops for more funding and provision and for many new initiatives.
"Current mental health presentations, in general, are also becoming much worse in the community and this needs to be tackled as a priority. The less that people feel they are alone in the middle of a pandemic with their mental health needs and the more readily available access is to an appropriate and broad array of services is a key to avoiding this mental health epidemic we are walking in to.
"Promoting pro-active over reactive services is vital and I hope to be able to give voice to this.
How do you intend to engage with the membership to ensure their voices are heard?
"Remote working has taught me that accessibility can be at the push of a button; a component to any effective engagement work is to be available both online and offline - remote meetings can be held to the comfort of all; whilst walk-in surgeries are able to capture a much more personable approach.
"Both are important and hold equally valid use. However, leaving an open line of communication via email will be just as important for those who might not want a face-to-face conversation - something which I find is sadly often looked over."