Two people that saved my life!

Following a discussion on the radio, I felt inspired to update the blog – it’s been a while! The topic was about people that had ‘saved your life.’ Either directly or indirectly.

I wanted to share with you two people who have saved my life!

While this blog is about those individuals, throughout my time at Southern Health I have been surrounded some extraordinary people that are so full of compassion, kindness and generosity. They have all had such a huge impact on my life and there are certain individuals that really do stand out - but I would be terrified of missing anyone out, so I won’t list them here. Thank you all so much!

I have struggled for many years with severe mental illness; with multiple stays in psychiatric hospitals and community care. A diagnosis of Schizoaffective disorder, I have struggled a long time with psychosis and hearing voices. When poorly, I fall into deep delusion, paranoia and become really unwell – sometimes accompanied by deep depression, although depression can also take center stage on its own.


Having survived a couple of suicide attempts, I was living an overwhelmingly meaningless life - seeing no hope of a future with any purpose. Living in cycles of being able to function a little to being debilitated and hospital bound. I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel - Recovery was so far away, regardless of how hard I tried.

A while ago now, I going through a period of stability, and although very much an empty place I was able to start functioning, enjoying days with dashing of hope. I didn’t know how long this would last – and I was always waiting to fall. But I was giving it everything I could – assuming at some point, I would fail. It would be then that I could truly be able to end my life knowing I had tried. I was completely at peace with this. The silence of death, with no more voices and racing thoughts was a fantasy, and one that I was looking forward too!

However; an opportunity came up to volunteer and give feedback about my local mental health service, which I apprehensively attended and this is where I met Dean Garrett and subsequently Clare Bundy. Little did they know the impact they were going to have on my life!

Along with other facilitators, Dean worked for Southern Health, which was undertaking a Quality Improvement program. I was there to give my honest views of the service, the good, the bad and the ugly. It was a total shock to the system, and the view I had of myself when Dean treated me like an absolute equal and really valued my opinion, something I had not felt in a long time. The profound impact this had on me, made me attend the following day – and this treatment of them seeing through any struggles I have had, just seeing me as a full person that was standing in front of him really impacted my view. I attended the rest of the week, mainly quiet, but contributing a little. He then invited me to the following week and there was nothing that both Dean and Clare, would not have done to support me.

It started to become more than my experience of mental illness that was being valued - he started to bring out skills and ability’s that I had long thought I had lost. Skills that made me an actual person - not just an illness. He began to really mentor me through the process, and this care, compassion and belief, in a very human and natural way, made me feel valued more than I had in years. It was giving me a reason to get up in the morning. Dean then brought my attention an opportunity for me to volunteer with the team doing as much as I could, in a totally flexible way.

This was me, a person that very rarely left the house, literally loathed everything about myself, fell into deep pits of delusion and paranoia, started feeling a value in waking up, getting out of bed and taking my medication. Perhaps a meaningful life was not so impossible.

This turned into a job opportunity, where I find myself now. I have also had the incredible opportunity to train as a Quality Improvement facilitator within Southern Health. Not only have I now progressed into a role as a QI Coach, the best part of my role here is to actively encourage and support other service users and carers to get involved in Quality Improvement, design and development.

It is since working at SHFT that Clare has become such an important support and role model. Clare would go to whatever lengths necessary to support me into the workplace – and place I thought genuinely, I would never do again in my life! She made me feel normal, and that no matter what happened, I could go to her for anything. Again, seeing me as an actual person, with a value – not just a Mental Illness. I would not be here at all, if it was not for her continued support.

I can say, without question that the opportunities, support, mentoring and generally going so far above and beyond has 100% saved my life.

These are two amazing people that did not think anything of what they were doing, it was normal to them, but they have given me my life back - I am happier and more fulfilled than I ever thought possible full of hope of a long and happy future.

Dean and Clare continue now to support and look out for me. Not just this Dean also continues to be a role model to me - pushing me out of my comfort zone, challenging me to be better every day. – I am a far better person for knowing them both.

I am not saying that Mental Illness is not hard – I still struggle every single day, I still have to work on my recovery, but it really is worth it!!

Thank you to them, and to all the other wonderful people I have met along the way at Southern Health – a million times Thank You!


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