Breaking down the stigma of mental health

A Doncaster woman is speaking out about personality disorder to break down the stigma of mental health as the borough marks Mental Health Awareness Week until May 20.

Lorraine Finch (51), of Bentley, has emotionally unstable personality disorder. She’s had the condition since her teenage years but was diagnosed five years ago after being referred to our mental health services.

Lorraine said: “With this condition you battle thoughts in your head, good and bad. You become manic depressed, you feel no-one wants you, you have no energy and you isolate yourself. It’s a horrible place to be.  I started drinking to help lift the feeling, but that makes it worse. I became angry and aggressive towards people and have self-harmed to try to cope with it.  I’ve also overdosed.”

When Lorraine overdosed, she was referred into RDaSH services by the police.  That’s where she met Sue Gill, a Personality Disorder Specialist Practitioner and her colleagues.

Lorraine added: “I wouldn’t engage at first with Sue and the service because I didn’t trust people.

“Having this condition is like a rollercoaster ride. You do get better but there’s a lot of ups and downs.”

Over time Sue built up a therapeutic relationship with Lorraine – and now she’s feeling well, can keep the personality disorder in check and is now aiming to help others.

Lorraine has learned a range of techniques to control her feelings and emotions. She’s also been supported to learn how to be more assertive, to stop overthinking, to rationalise things and not to worry about what other people may say.

“I have an angel on one shoulder, “explained Lorraine. “On the other is evil. I’ve learned how to over-ride the bad thoughts with the good by using coping methods and by talking to Sue and other RDaSH staff.  I feel reprogrammed to be a healthy adult.”

Sue explained: “Personality disorder generally tends to develop due to a trauma in childhood. The person then doesn’t transition in the usual way into adulthood. They make themselves ‘safe’ by using anger or detachment.   I have to build up trust with my patients, break down any barriers and then work to build up their confidence.”

“Without Sue and the team I could have lost everything, “ added Lorraine.  “Now I have a lovely family around me. My family are my sunshine.  I want others to know help is out there if you think you have mental health needs.”

Lorraine is now aiming to be a Mental Health Ambassador, to help break down stigmas, and to be a Peer Support Worker for younger people with personality disorder.

“People need to know that personality disorder can’t beat you. You can get better. Help is there for both men and women with mental health needs,” added Lorraine.  “People should also not be ashamed to have mental health needs or be ashamed to talk about it.  No-one should ever make you feel ashamed either.”

Nigel Ball, Doncaster Council Cabinet Member for Public Health, said: “Thinking about the mental health of ourselves and friends or family is just as important as physical health. The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, work and family breakdown can make it harder for people to cope.

“Talking to someone can sometimes be a difficult first step but it’s important to remember that there are services such as the Doncaster Talking Shop in place to provide support. If you’re experiencing mental health issues, or are concerned that someone you know may need some support, then pick up the phone, there is always someone there to help.”

Anyone who thinks they need support for mental health needs should contact their GP.

Anyone feeling in a mental health crisis in Doncaster should call 01302 566999.

Our Talking Shop also offers support to deal with mental health conditions. More information about The Talking Shop’s services can be found at http://www.talkingsense.org/, ring (01302) 565650, or call into the Talking Shop at 63 Hall Gate in Doncaster’s town centre (open weekdays between 9am and 5pm.)