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‘Suicidal, phobic, anxious’: mental health nurse shares personal story

An experienced director of nursing who was hospitalised with depression has publicly shared her mental health battle to help reduce stigma.
Mandy Stevens

A senior mental health nurse who recently spent 12 weeks in hospital has shared her experience to help tackle stigma about mental health issues

Prior to her admission to City and Hackney Centre for Mental Health in London last October, Mandy Stevens was working at Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust, as director of improvement.

In a candid post on Facebook and Linkedin , Ms Stevens said that her 29 years of experience in mental health services might lend the impression she would be immune to mental illness.

But there is no immunity, she wrote, explaining she first experienced initial symptoms of depression and 10 days later was admitted to hospital via the crisis team.

Mental illness can come out of nowhere and affect anyone

A senior mental health nurse who recently spent 12 weeks in hospital has shared her experience to help tackle stigma about mental health issues


Mandy Stevens posted a selfie, raising awareness of mental illness. Picture: Mandy Stevens

Prior to her admission to City and Hackney Centre for Mental Health in London last October, Mandy Stevens was working at Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust, as director of improvement.

In a candid post on Facebook and Linkedin, Ms Stevens said that her 29 years of experience in mental health services might lend the impression she would be ‘immune’ to mental illness.

‘But there is no immunity,’ she wrote, explaining she first experienced initial symptoms of depression and 10 days later was admitted to hospital via the crisis team.

‘Mental illness can come out of nowhere and affect anyone at any time.’

‘Desolate and desperate’

Ms Stevens also shared a ‘selfie’, describing herself as ‘tearful, distraught, [with] matted hair, frightened, withdrawn, desolate and desperate.’

She said this was a far cry from her usual self, which was a ‘confident, competent, extrovert, professional, independent woman’.

‘This is what mental illness has the power to do,’ she said. ‘Depression ripped the rug out from under my feet and emptied my whole being. I have been completely disabled and incapacitated by this illness.

‘If I had been in hospital with a broken leg, or a physical problem, no doubt I would have been sharing amusing photos of my drip stand, the signed plaster cast and the hospital food; laughing with my family, friends and extended social media community.

‘Instead I have hidden myself away, scared of my own shadow and told very few people. Sad to say, I have also been embarrassed, shy, suicidal, phobic, anxious and scared of everything.’

Pride in nursing profession

Ms Stevens had a message of thanks and praise for the NHS, the nurses who cared for her, and her family and friends.

She wrote: ‘Thanks also to the totally amazing NHS team at East London NHS Foundation Trust who have been awesome 24 hours a day, Sundays, Christmas day and every day.

‘The nurses here have humbled me completely and reminded me of my pride in my profession.

‘The management and the whole multi-disciplinary team have supported me through this nauseous journey and given me strength and hope to keep going.

‘Without exception, they have been compassionate, professional, kind and caring. Long live the NHS.’

Message of hope

Ms Stevens finished her post by urging people to look after themselves and their friends and family and warned that mental illness can affect anyone at any time.

‘There is no health without mental health,’ she said.

‘I lost my mind, lost my self esteem, lost my pride, lost my sense of who I am, lost my confidence, lost my job and my income, lost my driving licence and my independence, but I am slowly picking up the pieces.

‘I will be strong again. I will be ok.’


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