Mental Health Awareness Week - Terry's blog
In his blog, Terry Nippress, Peer Mentor at Wellbeing Suffolk, shares his experience of autism, self-harm and being a suicide survivor.
“I was living with and unaware that I am autistic for a long time. In fact, I only received my autism diagnosis just a few years ago. I have always suffered with anxiety, low mood and have had bouts of depression.
I am a suicide survivor and I used to self-harm. My everyday emotions were easily impacted and therefore I could find life very difficult and be erratic at times. This has had a negative impact on my romantic relationships and at times caused my immediate family a lot of distress.
Growing up and throughout most of my life, mental health was rarely mentioned, and I regarded mental health as those people that would have to be hospitalised and living with diagnosed mental health conditions.
Thankfully in recent times mental health care and wellbeing have changed for the wider good for everyone.”
Have you experienced worries or stigma at work?
In 2017, after what I call my breakdown, my employer at that time could not be more unsympathetic. Even though I had all the required paperwork from my GP and followed all the prescribed steps, it soon became clear that it was an HR exercise to remove me from my post. It was at this point that I decided that I could not return to that said employer.
As someone who has lived experience of mental health issues, could you share how it feels to work in NSFT?
My role requires me to have lived experience of mental health challenges to enable me to better support those people who access our service.
I am very fortunate that my line manager ‘simply gets’ mental health challenges and enables me. My manager supports and trusts me to make any reasonable adjustments that I require. This means that I can perform to my best ability every time that I am supporting someone who is being treated by our service.
In fact, everyone that I have worked with within Wellbeing Suffolk are tremendously supportive and this is the only job that I have had where I look forward to my working day.
What are your top tips for living well with mental health issues?
My personal tips are to be as proactive as you can possibly be. Take time to educate yourself around your own challenges, explore coping strategies, and make changes to your lifestyle.
It is important to be as accountable as you can possibly be for your own wellbeing. If you have a challenge that impacts your every-day life, then explore ways in which you can live with this difficulty, hopefully forming healthy habits. Take time to reflect on how you are feeling, notice any hurdles that you have faced or will be facing and be proactive in trying to address these.
Try to be as communicative as you can around others about your own needs, and be prepared at times to know that some people will not understand mental health challenges.
Explain as best as you can what you need from those around you to support you to succeed at work. Explore what strategies help you keep well and try to incorporate some of these into your working life.
If you need to ask for adjustments, then speak to your line manager as soon as you can.
What strategies help you at work?
My anxiety is very high in the mornings, and I feel emotional. I have learnt that taking time to read and complete 10 minutes of guided meditation before I start my day, helps settle me, before I attend my first meeting or travel to work.
I need down-time after an appointment, so I try not rush from one appointment to the next.
I will remove myself from my desk at lunchtime to compose myself for the afternoon.
I ensure that I eat lunch and do not drink too many coffees.
What advice would you give a friend or colleague on how best to support someone with lived experience of mental health difficulties?
Encourage those people who may need support in the workplace to be open about how they are feeling and what they need.
Check-in with your colleague if you notice them struggling. Provide a supportive environment and this will lead the person to feel that they are understood and not judged. This approach will cement trust. Hopefully, creating a productive and happier working environment for all.