11:20 am – Thurs 23rd October 2013

Mental health, Personal Effectiveness, Self-Awareness, Empathy

Trust boss reveals mental health problems
Trust boss reveals mental health problems.

The head of an NHS trust has spoken publicly for the first time about her own experience of mental illness, revealing how she has suffered from depression and anxiety.

Lisa Rodrigues, chief executive of the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said she wanted to challenge the stigma against mental health problems that still exists.

The trust runs mental health, learning disability and substances abuse services across Sussex.

Mrs Rodrigues, who is retiring next year after more than 12 years in charge at the trust, wrote an article for the Health Service Journal to mark Britain’s Personal Best weekend and World Mental Health Day on October 10.

Britain’s Personal Best is an Olympic legacy charity aimed at getting people to do things they have never done before to help others and themselves.

Mrs Rodrigues said: “It should not be shocking that someone who holds down a senior position like mine have had their own experiences of mental illness.

“But sadly it is. I’ve taken the risk of talking about this for the first time to challenge stigma and make people think about prejudices they might hold.

“I know, from experience, that facing depression and anxiety is grim.

“But I also know that such experiences, if you let them, can help you grow stronger and improve your self-awareness, personal effectiveness and empathy for others.

“It isn’t a battle. It is a long hard road that you travel, sometimes with loved ones and professionals, but mainly on your own.

“I do not want to diminish the bravery and strength of the people who use our services and are dealing with issues such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder because they are amazing.

“What I want to do is point out that people can have a mental health issue but it does not detract for their ability to do their job and live their lives.”

In the HSJ article she wrote: “Like one in four members of the population, I too have experienced mental illness, in my case depression, anxiety and the occasional bit of mania.

“I’ve been told I was a waste of space by an A&E nurse while he washed out my stomach after an overdose.

“I’ve sat opposite a psychiatrist and been unable to find an answer when pressed to think of a reason for living.

“I have learned, by trial and error, ways to manage my wellbeing.”


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