Sarah from North Wales loves music and animals and has an interesting family history. She’s also an NCMH Research Champion, helping to spread the word about mental health research. This is her story:
I’m Sarah. I’m 37 years old, and I live in North Wales. I was born in Norfolk, but we moved around a lot, as my father was in the RAF.
An interesting fact about my family is that a Lord gave our surname to us as a present to my great, great, great (not sure exactly how many greats!) grandfather, who was born in Edinburgh castle!
I’m music lover, and my iPod literally has music for any and every mood, but my real passion in life is my dogs and cats. I have two white Alsatians and 3 cats. Along with my two lovebirds, they keep me going, and luckily they all get along quite nicely too! Some of them are rescues and in the past I have fostered for the RSPCA.
Unfortunately my mental illness is severe enough to prevent me from working at the moment, although I would love to be able to one day.
My problems with mental health began in 1994 after my grandmother passed away. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and then in 2003 I had a breakdown. I experienced some psychotic symptoms, which scared me a lot.
After that I tried to change my life for the better and worked hard at keeping myself well. Then, in 2007, I lost my newborn son, which lead to more crisis admissions.
Since then I have managed to fight back against my illness and make lots of progress. I recently passed my driving test, which I’m very proud of.
During one admission to hospital, I picked up a leaflet about NCMH and their research. I really wanted to get involved – I knew it couldn’t really help me there and then, but if it could help others in future then I wanted to do it.
The whole experience was really informal and the people were all lovely. Afterwards I felt like I’d made a really important contribution.
The researcher came to see me and asked me some questions – there was no pressure, no right or wrong answers, and I found it quite enjoyable. They also took a little blood, which is not something that bothers me. The interviewers were very reassuring and it was all explained in a way I understood.
I like to think that by volunteering I will have made some difference to future treatments and approaches to mental ill health. I hope that by researching the genetics, they can produce gene therapies to help, and come up with better medications.
I would recommend that anyone who can help does so – I have asked already a friend to be my PlusOne! Research might not change things for people suffering right now, but I’m sure it will in the future.