Jane has been employed by P3 for the past 18 months as a Mental Health Support Worker, working 4 days per week. She is bi-polar and has accessed mental health services since 1994. She has been sectioned twice and was serially hospitalised as a result of her psychotic behaviour. Jane was initially admitted to hospital with drug induced psychosis, which is thought to have triggered her bi-polar illness. She has experienced rapid cycling mania and depression on an ongoing basis but her illness
was further complicated by drug use: she was a ‘revolving door’ patient for eight years. As a depressive-psychotic she considers herself ‘high maintenance’. She was on the move continually so
had a succession of doctors and CPNs. In 2001 she successfully weaned herself off drugs and got registered on computer and digital photography courses. This went well and in 2004 she enrolled on a degree, subsequently graduating in photography from Derby University in 2007. She is still bi-polar but can cope because she knows her early warning signs and acts on these, alongside taking medication.
Jane saw an advertisement for a six month contract as support worker job with P3 in a local newspaper. She had no previous contact with the organisation, but the advert made clear that
anyone with personal experience as a user of mental health services would be considered, so she applied. She failed the recruitment first time because she was unable to answer some of the interview questions about risk assessment. However, the interview panel felt she showed potential and gave her very positive feedback and encouragement to try again. She was later invited to apply for a permanent part-time post which she did, preparing for the interview by learning about risk assessment. She got the job.
On appointment she received the same training as others, plus mentoring from a support worker and the project co-ordinator. She found this very positive and received a lot of support and guidance
from them. The rest of the team were not informed about her background by management, but she did later tell them herself. At first she did not inform clients, but after about 18 months she was on a forum with other organisations, promoting mental health awareness and seeking to reduce the stigma for mental health service users. She felt she must be open about her own experience, so began to reveal it from then.
Jane is a highly committed and enthusiastic employee. She has needed time off due to her illness, but this has been very little – less than most workers, because she feels a strong commitment to the organisation and the clients.