I joined the NHS as a student nurse in October 1984, aged 18. My reasons for wanting to be a mental health nurse were many, but I have two memories as a child and younger teenager that stand out. I had an aunty with depression and alcohol problems, who we all loved very much. At times she couldn’t always look after her children so well and so my mum did her bit. We also looked after their dog for a while. I can remember just thinking how kind my mum was and how much of a difference her support was making. It made me value the importance of kindness and being caring for others.
A few years later my mum had her own difficulties. She developed depression and agoraphobia. Like my mum a few years before I wanted to do my bit, aged 13 or 14, to help and care for her when she needed support most. My sister and I helped her reduce her medication, spending time with her to reduce her dosage and we gave her lots of positive feedback. Mum really struggled to get out with her experiencing agoraphobia, so I would walk her to work before school (it helped she was a dinner lady at my school!).
I also came up with a plan to help mum build her confidence to go out on her own and so I set her targets to leave the house on her own, first to the nearest lamppost, then to the second, and eventually around the block on her own. A teenage CBT therapist looking back!! And my mum has just got stronger and stronger since then, she still has her challenges but overall she has done brilliant. Importantly, she has developed ways to manage her life and health her way, with a bit of support from others only now and then.
I found being caring in support of mum rewarding and it felt like I was giving her something back for bringing me up in a loving home. As I got older it just felt a natural choice to do something to help others, to join a caring profession.
Now in my current role, I try to never forget the importance of what we do to help and care for others, how important and life making the work can be. We face some tough challenges ahead, I know we must stay close to our values as we work through those challenges. Importantly, as with my mum, we must work with people to empower them to manage their care and be in control of their health.