Managing mental health as a recovery support worker

TJ tells us about her experience of managing her mental illness while working as a recovery support worker for others with mental illness.

My name is TJ Frost and I am a mental health recovery worker for Willow Lodge (supported housing) in Folkestone, Kent.

I have now been in post for 3 years and wouldn’t have been able to have managed this without the continuing support of my manager David Rains MBE and my work colleagues – as well as a good sense of humour all round!!

I suffer with an enduring long term mental health condition and have suffered a few crisis points since being in post.

From the word ‘go’ I have been encouraged to be honest about how I am feeling, and David has an open door policy so I have been able to speak to him on a regular casual basis when needed about anything to do with my mental health issues (thank god!).

Due to suffering from a personality disorder I required a new medication change 6 months ago and was concerned that I would need to take some time off sick because of this which I really didn’t want to do! I have spent the past 5 years getting well enough to return to work so didn’t want to go back to square one in my eyes!

My manager offered me a workplace action recovery plan (WRAP) which I strongly recommend to anyone and adjusted my working hours to enable me to continue working. The problem I was having was with the mornings – I struggled to get up on time due to the meds so my David ensured I only work the late shift (1.30pm-9pm) which was perfect! I am definitely not a morning person!!

My amazing work colleagues spend time checking that my workload is manageable and will have a break with me if needed so I can always talk about how I am feeling.

I have found talking about how you feel is half of the battle and encourage anyone to speak up and be heard!

Having worked for Rethink Mental Illness years ago I have experienced such a change in way of support now where as then I received little support I’m afraid to say. This led me to take a lot of time off sick and consequently left my job which I loved due to the stress (as well as personal problems of course).

I have also found if I am feeling anxious/low I will take a break in our garden which I find helps, and gave me the idea of growing our own vegetables! This is due to take off soon so watch this space – free potatoes all round!! (if they grow!)

A new development in our team meetings is also useful – it’s called Safe Space where each of us can talk freely and share anything that we want to, so it’s another space to seek support if needed. I found this helpful as I managed to let all my colleagues know in one go what was happening for me so they were aware.

Working in this field is my passion and I truly believe everyone deserves to be happy and heard ❤️

I am truly grateful to my manager and working buddies for their care and support which enables me to continue to grow to be able to support others suffering mental health issues – feel the love and talk about how you feel!

Thanks for listening and take care everyone.

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