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New BBC documentary will showcase Rachel's recovery
10/02/2016

A documentary showcasing the inspirational recovery of a young Suffolk woman who suffered serious injuries after stepping off a balcony while in the grip of a psychotic episode will air on BBC television on Monday, 15 February.

Rachel Edwards, who is receiving care from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), has taken part in a follow-up to the award-winning ‘Secret Life of a Manic Depressive’, which told the story of Stephen Fry.

Called ‘The Not So Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive: 10 Years On', the programme highlights the way attitudes and treatment for bipolar disorder have changed since the actor and writer was diagnosed with the illness in 2006 following a suicide attempt.

As well as filming Rachel, her friends and family, the crew also shadowed Rachel in her job as a Peer Support Worker with Norfolk and Waveney Wellbeing Service.

They also followed NSFT Mental Health Practitioner Peter Henson, who works closely with Rachel, as he carried out a care plan review, which records and individual’s mental, spiritual and physical needs.

The programme-makers contacted Rachel after reading her blog which charts the way her life changed forever in November 2009, when she climbed out of bed during the night, put on her best outfit and stepped onto a balcony 50 feet above the streets of London. Convinced she could fly, she jumped – falling four floors to the ground below and suffering devastating injuries as a result.

It was only when she was lying in a hospital bed receiving treatment for a broken back and heel that Rachel, now 25, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her accident had happened while she was deep in the grip of a manic episode and completely unaware of the consequences of her actions.

Although she was told she would never walk again and still has to use a wheelchair every day, she defied the odds to complete the 5k Race for Life in 2011 using leg splints. She has also been working closely with Peter, who visits her monthly to check her progress, talk through her emotions and watch for any triggers.

“The documentary focuses on my story and those of three others,” said Rachel, who lives in Stradbroke, near Eye. “The crew wanted to focus on recovery, and filmed me at the gym and pool, out with my friends and while I was on a training course. They also interviewed my mum, who along with my dad played such a big part in my recovery.

“It was quite strange being filmed, but I soon forgot the camera was there. I’m looking forward to watching it.”

Most cases of bipolar develop during the teenage years, although studies are still ongoing into the causes of the illness. Treatment can include medication, psychological therapies and lifestyle changes, as well as education to help people recognise the triggers.

“Bi-polar can be very serious and our role is help make sure people stay on the middle path,” said Peter. “We look for any signs of mania or triggers so that we can protect the individual from that elevated mood, as well as observing for low mood or suicidal thoughts.

“We try and dilute some of the stresses of everyday life which can cause issues, such as problems with accommodation or relationships. We also encourage our patients to eat healthily and exercise while making sure they get enough sleep, which is crucial for improving mood.

“One of the major problems associated with bipolar is the damage which is caused when someone is elated. They may send inappropriate emails and end up losing their job, lose their dignity by talking to strangers or could give up their housing. I’ve known one person who spent £30,000 in one week and another with seven credit cards, while others will walk into the road because they think the cars will bounce off them.

“It can take up to two years to recover from an episode like that and repay your debts, rebuild your relationships and apologise for everything you’ve done. People have to start life all over again and it can be very painful. Our job is damage limitation – we try and prevent their problems from getting that severe while making sure they are on the best medication to help their individual circumstances.”

To read Rachel’s blog, please click here. ​