I am a writer, coach and mental health campaigner.
I joined the NHS in 1973, spent the first half of my career as a nurse and a health visitor, and the latter half in NHS management, including 13 years running Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. In 2012, I was awarded a CBE for services to the NHS. In 2013, I announced my plans to retire the following year, and then surprised friends and colleagues by coming out about my own experiences of depression since aged 15. A few weeks later, I was hit with my worst ever depressive episode. With help from my GP, psychiatrist, therapist, family and best friend, I managed to go back to work in January 2014. I am deeply grateful to them and my wonderful work colleagues for supporting me in my final 8 months at the trust, and giving me a warm send-off into my new world.
I now use my understanding of stigma, including self-stigma, to raise awareness and reduce the negativity that are still associated with mental illness. I write, speak at conferences and via the broadcast media.
I also coach executives from the public and charitable sectors, usually when they have arrived at some sort of career or personal crossroads. I also coach clinical leaders via the Darzi Fellow programme. I contribute to the NHS Leadership Academy Programme for general managers, and offer mentoring to some of the trainees in a voluntary capacity. I use Myers Briggs and other psychological tools to help those I work with to develop increased understanding of themselves and the impact they have on others – what is these days called emotional intelligence.
In 2014 I was invited to become a Trustee of Grassroots Suicide Prevention, and I am now the vice chair. I also volunteer with Samaritans. And I chair the working group of a Time to Change project aimed at reducing the stigma of mental illness experienced within health services. You can read more about it here.
I have a mixed heritage background myself. As a nurse and a patient, I am indebted to immigrant people who have dedicated their clinical careers to helping people in countries than their own, including the UK. Since 2012, I was an extremely proud ambassador for the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal. This is why. Mary’s statue was unveiled this summer as a symbol of strength in adversity, and courage to keep going trying despite setbacks. I am currently helping to set up the legacy charity, the Mary Seacole Trust, to inspire young people with Mary’s extraordinary story .
I have qualifications in adult and child nursing, and health visiting, a BA in Psychology and a Masters in Public Sector Management. I am trying to finish my memoir/how not to do it guide called Tales from a Recovering Chief Executive. I am also writing a novel.