Hitchin woman with bipolar on stigma and the need to listen

Jacqueline Lord has spoken out about living with a long term mental illness. Picture: Jacqueline Lor

Jacqueline Lord has spoken out about living with a long term mental illness. Picture: Jacqueline Lord - Credit: Archant

A Hitchin woman has spoken about the “stigma” attached to mental illnesses and how it affects those living with them.

Jacqueline Lord is living with bipolar and feels there should be drop-in centres and holistic therapies available, which in her view will improve the level of care provided to those who struggle with their mental health.

With World Mental Health Day marked today, she told the Comet: “How is it possible to participate in society when society sees people with mental health challenges as a stigma, and have little wish to find out about mental health or communicate with us about it.

“It is a case of what is not seen or understood is ignored or stigmatised.

“I have openly expressed to my community that I am bipolar. In doing this I am unusual and it has placed me in a position where I am misunderstood and often looked at as ‘mad’ – but that’s not me.”

Jacqueline said that the Silver Birch Centre drop-in sessions in Hitchin helped and gave her a sense of self-worth, but that the service has now stopped.

“We would go to the drop-in centre and get back our sense of self-worth through activities like art, relaxation and drama. It gave us mental strength,” Jacqueline continued.

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“More importantly there were staff there who could detect when you were not too well and direct you to seek help before a episode became greater.

“As of June, I no longer have a support worker as I am over 60, so when I was beginning to get manic and it was not detected.

“Over the weeks in the sanctuary of my home I became more and more isolated, starting to hallucinate and become psychotic.

“It was not seen, as I had no contact with services. My GP noticed and referred me, but nothing happened.

“I finally had the vision to pick up the phone to a mental health helpline and I was told the crisis team would be around. They came, and support and clinical help was promised to me, which I have yet to see.

“But what I need is that drop-in centre with therapies such as art, writing or drama where – as a creative person – I can place my hallucinations and thoughts in a place outside my mind.

“There needs to be services in place for long-term clients, and those over 60.

“Don’t let people with mental health challenges go back on to the streets, be it in their mind or physically. Listen to us.”