Mental Health Awareness Week – BBC News presenter Julian Worricker blog

For Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, journalist Julian Worricker has penned a personal blog exclusively for Richmond Fellowship about his experience of a friend’s battle with mental ill health.

Julian is a presenter on the BBC News channel, Radio 4 and the BBC World Service.

“I have a photo on the window ledge of my study, and each time I look up from my computer keyboard it catches my eye. It’s a close-up of a dear friend of mine…she’s leaning forward, chin resting on her hands, smiling broadly, as she so often did. I look at her sometimes when I’m in need of a bit of wise advice – she was always very good at wise advice – and occasionally I look at her with a hint of envy because she remains ever youthful while I’ve added lots of grey hairs and a few kilos since we were last able to meet in person. You can probably guess where this story is going.

This dear friend – Sue – took her own life in 1998; a shattering blow to her partner, her family, and to all those of us who knew her. It was a horrible culmination of acute mental health issues that she wrestled with over a number of years, and it’s why shining a brighter spotlight on mental health has always been important to me.

I’ve been very fortunate, in that my experience of fragile mental health has been mostly seen through the travails of others. Like everyone I’ve had my ups and downs, my good days and bad, but none of those come close to the challenges faced by people like Sue. Her normally bright and bubbly personality could be transformed in a matter of hours by her illness. The shutters would come down, there’d be a blankness to her facial expression, and whatever you tried by way of casual conversation was met with a look of tiredness, indifference and confusion. I didn’t understand why, but you could tell she didn’t either.

I feel sure that if she were alive today, she’d be able to look back with pride at an increasingly successful broadcasting career…and still forwards, too, to more of the same. She’d still love a bit of gossip about the workplace, she’d never lose sight of some of the dafter aspects of what we do for a living, and she’d still be thinking of others before she thought of herself.

So I hope Mental Health Awareness Week can reduce the numbers of stories like hers.

The global pandemic has tested all of us, and it’s probably raised the issue of mental health in the minds of people who’ve not had to think about it a great deal before. The timing, therefore, could be serendipitous. Let’s make the push for greater awareness count, and ensure that our decision makers live up to their promises on this crucial issue”. – Julian Worricker.

You can watch Julian’s introductory video to Mental Health Awareness Week at Richmond Fellowship here and follow our social media channels across the week for more Mental Health Awareness Week stories.

World Suicide Prevention Day – A Personal Story

This World Suicide Prevention Day we hear from a member of our Life Links staff about their recovery journey, the support they got to overcome suicidal thoughts and their work now to support others.

My experience with mental health started long before I was a volunteer at Life Links. As a child, I grew up a witness to domestic violence in the family home. My Mum was a victim of domestic violence from her partner at the time for many years and growing up I lived in a very controlled environment. This hostile way of living continued into my early teens, when they eventually separated. This had more of an impact on me than I could understand as a thirteen year old girl still trying to understand herself.

At the time, I struggled with coming to terms with their separation and the adjustment to a life without being controlled. Painful memories plagued my mind daily and my emotions were difficult to manage. This led to very unhealthy coping mechanisms such a self harm. I also became an insomniac, sleeping for two or three hours a night. I ate very little, often only having one meal a day.

On November the 12th 2010, I threatened to end my life.

On November the 12th 2010, I threatened to end my life. I had a plan and I was certain I wasn’t going to be here anymore. Thankfully, for me my Mum found out and she got medical advice from my GP. It was then that it was best decided that I would go into a Mental Health Unit for adolescence as an inpatient for two weeks.

It was there where I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and in the hospital was the first time that I had felt safe in a long time. When I was discharged, I went to live with my Dad and my step Mum and begun the journey of healing. I have always been very fortunate to have an incredible support network of family and friends that empowered to believe that Mental Health Recovery is possible.

I spent a lot of time adjusting to life after my hospital admission. I went to school on a part time basis to allow me to adjust and focus on my recovery as at the time, I was attending weekly counselling sessions. It was in these sessions that I grew as a person, empowered and charged with the belief that life would get better and it did.

It was in those sessions and also reflecting on them afterwards that really helped me to understand the importance and impact the relationship between the Mental Health professional and the client can really change a persons life as it completely changed mine. For the first time in my life, I was in an environment where I felt safe in sharing my emotions. I developed a strong sense of trust and security in myself and others.

For the first time in my life, I was in an environment where I felt safe in sharing my emotions. I developed a strong sense of trust and security in myself and others.

After two years, my counselling came to an end but I was armed with all that I had learned about myself and I was finally able to move forward. I started attending school full time and by the time I finished school in year 11 I left with 6 GCSE’S and the world at my feet.

I was almost certain that I wanted to work in the Mental Health Field, but I was unsure of what exactly I wanted to do. I did a two year course in Health and Social Care which then led me to complete my dream degree in Psychology.

During my degree, it was then where I began to question whether I wanted to or would be able to work in the Mental Health field. I questioned whether it would be something I could manage emotionally due to my past experience, or whether it would be an asset in enabling me to help others.

That is when I found Life Links sat on a computer in the library at University. I was looking for volunteering experience as part of my degree and I thought that in order to see whether the Mental Health field would be right for me, I could volunteer and that way I would know.

So, that’s exactly what I did. I sent a copy of my CV and cover letter to Shannon and the next thing I knew I had and interview and then, I was a volunteer and a passionate one at that due my past experiences.

I grew in so many ways through my volunteering experience at Life Links, but mostly in confidence.

I grew in so many ways through my volunteering experience at Life Links, but mostly in confidence. At the beginning I wouldn’t answer the phones on the information line out of fear that I would say the wrong things and the idea of delivering workshops was absolutely petrifying.

It took some time, but with encouragement from Shannon, staff and the other volunteers I begun to build my confidence and before I knew it, I was answering the phone without even thinking and delivering a workshop begun to feel natural. I actually found that I really enjoy public speaking.

Life Links provided me with the environment to grow, trust in myself and my own abilities and rocket in confidence. I took every opportunity that was given to me, including delivering a series of recovery education workshops at Recovery College and taking part in an OCN accredited training course in which I received an accreditation for.

The more I learned about the job role from the Recovery Workers, the more it felt like the right route for me as Richmond Fellowships values are very much in line with my own. Volunteering with Life Links made the decision for me that the mental health field was right for me and that my own mental health experience would only be an asset in understanding and helping others.

So, once I finished my degree in which I obtained a 2:1 classification there was much to my delight a job opening as a Recovery Worker and here I am. I don’t think ever in my life I have felt like I fit in like I do with the team at life links.

I don’t think ever in my life I have felt like I fit in like I do with the team at life links.

The supportive and encouraging atmosphere shows me daily that this is the right place for me to be and the experience of working with my own clients and seeing their progress is rewarding, not just for me but in how I feel for them. As I hope to empower my own clients in the way that I felt in powered within my own Mental Health journey.

Throughout my journey with Life Links and a volunteer and now staff, I have seen the demand for the service continue to increase and I have seen first hand how beneficial the service is for those who use it. Today is a celebration of staff, volunteers and service users and I feel incredible humbled to be a part of Life Links.