Tag Archives: Work

How can we make healthcare a better place for women to work? Live event

The NHS is the UK’s biggest employer, with a workforce of of 1.7 million people across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, 77% of whom are women.

While healthcare is seen as a good place for women to work, many in the sector feel there is a glass ceiling. Despite women making up more than three-quarters of all NHS staff, they are still in the minority in senior roles. Healthcare professionals have also raised concerns about whether it is possible to strike a good work-life balance.

The Guardian is hosting a discussion and networking event to consider how to make healthcare a better place for women to work.

The event will take place at the Guardian’s London offices from 6pm on Thursday 12 July. Our panel of speakers will debate, among other things:

  • Is there a glass ceiling in the NHS? If so, what is causing it?
  • What are the barriers to flexible working and why do these disproportionately affect women?
  • Are women underrepresented in any roles or specialisms? What is being done to bring women into these professions?
  • Could employers do more in terms of professional support and mentoring to ensure women develop in their careers?
  • What are the benefits to the NHS and patients in being a more representative employer at all levels?
  • Do women need to leave the NHS to fulfil ambitions in healthcare? Are there employers beyond the NHS that are able to be more flexible?

The event is aimed at healthcare professionals – men and women – and while it is free, please be aware that space is limited. If you’d like to attend, please fill in the form below. Those who have been successful will receive an email to confirm their place.

The panel

Samantha Jones, director of the new care models programme, NHS England
Dido Harding, Baroness Harding of Winscombe, chair, NHS Improvement

Further panellists and discussion chair to be announced

Programme

6pm-6.45pm: Attendee arrival, registration, refreshments, networking

6.45pm-6.50pm: Chair’s welcome

6.50pm-7.40pm: Panel discussion

7.40pm-7.55pm: Audience Q&A

7.55pm-8pm: Chair closing comments

8pm-8.45pm: Networking and mentor partnering

8.45pm: Event ends, goody bags handed out

‘People with ADHD can be incredibly valuable at work’

‘As an employee, I wasn’t very good because I was inconsistent,” says Jannine Harris, 44, from Northampton. “I’m brilliant, and then I’m rubbish. And that’s obviously frustrating for an employer to contend with because they don’t know which Jannine they are going to get.”

Harris says she lost, or left, more than 40 jobs before she settled in her current role at Billing Brook school as a special needs teacher. “I’ve been dismissed from so many jobs,” she says. “That was the cycle of things. The only time I managed to hold down a long-term job, before my current one, was when I worked for myself for six years, but I only managed 13 months in a job prior to that.”

Harris was unaware that her inconsistency and flightiness was due to undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental disorder that describes a group of behavioural symptoms including inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The problems that Harris experienced at work are shared by many who have the condition. A new report into the socioeconomic impact of ADHD, conducted by Demos, a cross-party thinktank, found that it can be associated with lack of career planning, poor workplace productivity and increased job instability. The report also found that the likelihood of being a recipient of welfare benefits was 15% greater among individuals diagnosed with the condition.

The findings in Demos’s report correlate with my own experiences at work. I was diagnosed with ADHD in the early 1990s, when I was six years old. Educators were not aware of the condition back then, and I was expelled from every school I attended, finally leaving school altogether aged 14. The lack of qualifications that result from such an early withdrawal from education restricted my career choices to relatively mundane jobs.

Many people can tolerate the monotony of doing the same task over and over again in low-paid roles but, for me, it was intolerable. For example, in 2010 I had a gardening job with Oldham council. One of my daily duties was running a dutch hoe through flower beds to excavate the horsetail weeds that had taken root there; it was like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. So rather than stick at this task, I felt it would be far more entertaining to twirl my hoe around like a ninja weapon and fill the rest of my time by winding up my colleagues. The council was quite tolerant and did everything it could to accommodate me despite my bad behaviour – including giving me time off to get treatment.

I’m brilliant, and then I’m rubbish. And that’s obviously frustrating for an employer to contend with

I was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, but many adults struggle for years without knowing why their relationships and jobs keep breaking down.

Dan Maudsley, 38, who works as a senior broadcast journalist for BBC Radio 5 Live, says his life was at a “crisis point” before he was diagnosed three years ago. “In a sense, working on news summaries is quite good for ADHD, because the deadlines are short and it keeps you on track.” But Maudsley would be writing the summaries down to the wire and it was beginning to grate on his colleagues. “I think that if I hadn’t been diagnosed I would have been out of work and divorced, because deterioration at work leads to deterioration at home,” he says.

Since his diagnosis, Maudsley takes medication to control his condition and has devised other strategies to make sure he functions better at work, such as keeping a timer on his desk to help him visualise time.

But for John, a former housing options officer from Leeds, it took being sacked from his job and a suicide attempt before he received a diagnosis of ADHD. “I always knew I was different somehow, but I didn’t know I had the condition,” he says . “So I spent the last 30 years thinking I was inferior, because I found it harder to do things that most typically minded people take for granted.”

John says he was good at dealing with clients but struggled to keep appointments or turn up on time, and was generally disorganised. Since starting on medication, however, he is doing much better and plans to set up a not-for-profit organisation for housing the homeless.

Absenteeism is an issue for a lot of those with ADHD. When I meet Simon, 45, in Canary Wharf, east London, he tells me that things started going wrong when he changed roles. “I got offered a job that I thought was a great next step, but it didn’t quite work out. It took all the nice things about the old job and left all the dross. I had been able to cope with that as a small percentage but not 100%,” he says. Simon works as a business analyst for a prestigious financial company and says that when he started, as a temp, he had impressed his managers and was given more free reign as a result. “I was given space and other interesting things to do,” he says. “I’ve done well any time I had a management structure that allows that licence. The flip side is that when I have a management structure that is much more constraining, it goes the other way. I start switching off and become disengaged.”

Simon ended up taking six weeks off due to the stress caused by the change in roles and is currently working half days. After doing some of his own research, he thought he might have ADHD. He was formally diagnosed with the condition two weeks ago.

Jannine Harris, teacher in Northampton


Jannine Harris: ‘No one expects me to run a standard, quiet classroom.’ Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

With undiagnosed ADHD presenting a significant cost to the country, what can employers do to ensure their employees don’t deteriorate at work? For Michelle Beckett, CEO and founder of ADHD Action – a charity that is lobbying the government to create provision for those with the condition – the key is in raising awareness. “I think people with ADHD do have a lot of strengths if they are supported properly by employers,” she says. “You don’t need a lot of extra resources to manage an employee with ADHD.” She believes that small businesses could benefit from the type of brain that someone with ADHD can bring.

Simone Vibert, a researcher at Demos and author of the report into the socioeconomic impact of ADHD, agrees with Beckett: “People with ADHD who have received a diagnosis and support can be immensely valuable to employers One phenomenon common among people with ADHD is ‘hyperfocusing’ – the tendency to focus on certain passions, interests or work very intensely – which could prove very useful in a work scenario.” She adds that employers should work with individuals with ADHD to identify their best support strategy. “ADHD affects people in very different ways [and] can affect the same individual differently from day to day. A task might seem easy one day but, at a later time, it might feel much more difficult.”

I spent the last 30 years thinking I was inferior, because I found it harder to do things that most people take for granted

She also recommends that employers and Department for Work and Pensions staff direct staff with ADHD to Access to Work – a publicly funded employment support programme that provides grants to those with disabilities. Vibert says: “The scheme can be used by people with ADHD to help pay for support such as ADHD coaching, which helps them to develop strategies to manage their condition and succeed in life, including in employment.”

ADHD is a highly treatable condition and if those who have it receive the right support, their lives can dramatically improve. For Maudsley, the most important thing an employer can do is “listen and have that conversation. It’s an ongoing conversation; there will always need to be adjustments throughout my career and it’s not always clear what they will be.”

Harris is similarly thriving in a working environment where she is supported by her employer, and works with a number of students who have ADHD. She is also involved in training and assisting teachers of inattentive or hyperactive students. “I teach literacy and it’s a perfect subject for igniting excitement and channelling energy. This makes me feel useful and valued.” She also feels that the school regards her ADHD as an asset. “No one expects me to run a standard, quiet classroom,” she says. “I am allowed to be me, with all my exuberance.”

‘People with ADHD can be incredibly valuable at work’

‘As an employee, I wasn’t very good because I was inconsistent,” says Jannine Harris, 44, from Northampton. “I’m brilliant, and then I’m rubbish. And that’s obviously frustrating for an employer to contend with because they don’t know which Jannine they are going to get.”

Harris says she lost, or left, more than 40 jobs before she settled in her current role at Billing Brook school as a special needs teacher. “I’ve been dismissed from so many jobs,” she says. “That was the cycle of things. The only time I managed to hold down a long-term job, before my current one, was when I worked for myself for six years, but I only managed 13 months in a job prior to that.”

Harris was unaware that her inconsistency and flightiness was due to undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental disorder that describes a group of behavioural symptoms including inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The problems that Harris experienced at work are shared by many who have the condition. A new report into the socioeconomic impact of ADHD, conducted by Demos, a cross-party thinktank, found that it can be associated with lack of career planning, poor workplace productivity and increased job instability. The report also found that the likelihood of being a recipient of welfare benefits was 15% greater among individuals diagnosed with the condition.

The findings in Demos’s report correlate with my own experiences at work. I was diagnosed with ADHD in the early 1990s, when I was six years old. Educators were not aware of the condition back then, and I was expelled from every school I attended, finally leaving school altogether aged 14. The lack of qualifications that result from such an early withdrawal from education restricted my career choices to relatively mundane jobs.

Many people can tolerate the monotony of doing the same task over and over again in low-paid roles but, for me, it was intolerable. For example, in 2010 I had a gardening job with Oldham council. One of my daily duties was running a dutch hoe through flower beds to excavate the horsetail weeds that had taken root there; it was like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. So rather than stick at this task, I felt it would be far more entertaining to twirl my hoe around like a ninja weapon and fill the rest of my time by winding up my colleagues. The council was quite tolerant and did everything it could to accommodate me despite my bad behaviour – including giving me time off to get treatment.

I’m brilliant, and then I’m rubbish. And that’s obviously frustrating for an employer to contend with

I was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, but many adults struggle for years without knowing why their relationships and jobs keep breaking down.

Dan Maudsley, 38, who works as a senior broadcast journalist for BBC Radio 5 Live, says his life was at a “crisis point” before he was diagnosed three years ago. “In a sense, working on news summaries is quite good for ADHD, because the deadlines are short and it keeps you on track.” But Maudsley would be writing the summaries down to the wire and it was beginning to grate on his colleagues. “I think that if I hadn’t been diagnosed I would have been out of work and divorced, because deterioration at work leads to deterioration at home,” he says.

Since his diagnosis, Maudsley takes medication to control his condition and has devised other strategies to make sure he functions better at work, such as keeping a timer on his desk to help him visualise time.

But for John, a former housing options officer from Leeds, it took being sacked from his job and a suicide attempt before he received a diagnosis of ADHD. “I always knew I was different somehow, but I didn’t know I had the condition,” he says . “So I spent the last 30 years thinking I was inferior, because I found it harder to do things that most typically minded people take for granted.”

John says he was good at dealing with clients but struggled to keep appointments or turn up on time, and was generally disorganised. Since starting on medication, however, he is doing much better and plans to set up a not-for-profit organisation for housing the homeless.

Absenteeism is an issue for a lot of those with ADHD. When I meet Simon, 45, in Canary Wharf, east London, he tells me that things started going wrong when he changed roles. “I got offered a job that I thought was a great next step, but it didn’t quite work out. It took all the nice things about the old job and left all the dross. I had been able to cope with that as a small percentage but not 100%,” he says. Simon works as a business analyst for a prestigious financial company and says that when he started, as a temp, he had impressed his managers and was given more free reign as a result. “I was given space and other interesting things to do,” he says. “I’ve done well any time I had a management structure that allows that licence. The flip side is that when I have a management structure that is much more constraining, it goes the other way. I start switching off and become disengaged.”

Simon ended up taking six weeks off due to the stress caused by the change in roles and is currently working half days. After doing some of his own research, he thought he might have ADHD. He was formally diagnosed with the condition two weeks ago.

Jannine Harris, teacher in Northampton


Jannine Harris: ‘No one expects me to run a standard, quiet classroom.’ Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

With undiagnosed ADHD presenting a significant cost to the country, what can employers do to ensure their employees don’t deteriorate at work? For Michelle Beckett, CEO and founder of ADHD Action – a charity that is lobbying the government to create provision for those with the condition – the key is in raising awareness. “I think people with ADHD do have a lot of strengths if they are supported properly by employers,” she says. “You don’t need a lot of extra resources to manage an employee with ADHD.” She believes that small businesses could benefit from the type of brain that someone with ADHD can bring.

Simone Vibert, a researcher at Demos and author of the report into the socioeconomic impact of ADHD, agrees with Beckett: “People with ADHD who have received a diagnosis and support can be immensely valuable to employers One phenomenon common among people with ADHD is ‘hyperfocusing’ – the tendency to focus on certain passions, interests or work very intensely – which could prove very useful in a work scenario.” She adds that employers should work with individuals with ADHD to identify their best support strategy. “ADHD affects people in very different ways [and] can affect the same individual differently from day to day. A task might seem easy one day but, at a later time, it might feel much more difficult.”

I spent the last 30 years thinking I was inferior, because I found it harder to do things that most people take for granted

She also recommends that employers and Department for Work and Pensions staff direct staff with ADHD to Access to Work – a publicly funded employment support programme that provides grants to those with disabilities. Vibert says: “The scheme can be used by people with ADHD to help pay for support such as ADHD coaching, which helps them to develop strategies to manage their condition and succeed in life, including in employment.”

ADHD is a highly treatable condition and if those who have it receive the right support, their lives can dramatically improve. For Maudsley, the most important thing an employer can do is “listen and have that conversation. It’s an ongoing conversation; there will always need to be adjustments throughout my career and it’s not always clear what they will be.”

Harris is similarly thriving in a working environment where she is supported by her employer, and works with a number of students who have ADHD. She is also involved in training and assisting teachers of inattentive or hyperactive students. “I teach literacy and it’s a perfect subject for igniting excitement and channelling energy. This makes me feel useful and valued.” She also feels that the school regards her ADHD as an asset. “No one expects me to run a standard, quiet classroom,” she says. “I am allowed to be me, with all my exuberance.”

My mental illness has always affected my work, but at last I feel supported

With public support from figures like Prince William and Prince Harry, there is a growing public acknowledgement that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. But it doesn’t always feel that way. Even in the charity sector, mental health conditions aren’t often well understood.

That’s despite the evidence that they are becoming more common. According to the mental health charity Mind, one in four people experience a mental health issue each year. In other words, up to a quarter of the voluntary sector workforce may be affected. Many people – regardless of their profession – deal with their mental illness behind closed doors, afraid that talking about it with their manager or colleagues could put their career at risk.

Certainly, this is how I was made to feel. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, with emotional instability personality disorder, and faced extreme mood swings. The first psychiatrist I saw told me I’d never be well enough to live “a normal life”. He was one in a long line of people who told me not to expect too much from my career. I was young, my confidence was low and, naturally, I started to believe they were right. But I wanted so much to live an independent life.

When I started working – first in retail and then sales – life was very difficult. I tried to be honest and talk to my manager early on but his reaction stunned me: “Everyone gets sad,” he said. He didn’t give me any additional support and expected me to pull myself together. My colleagues also didn’t understand and began to comment on the amount of time I had to take off. They started calling me “sick notes”.


My colleagues didn’t understand and ​​began to comment on the amount of time I had to take off

Working in this environment inevitably worsened my condition and I was signed off work for about six months. I felt shaken by the experience and it was incredibly hard to build up my confidence to the point where I felt ready to give work another shot. Eventually I did, but when I took on another sales role with a different company, the same thing happened.

Having spent some time volunteering for Rethink, I applied for a position in the charity sector with HOME Fundraising. I knew that knocking on people’s doors to collect money for charity wasn’t going to be easy, but I wanted to do something positive at work.

I had intended to keep my concerns about my mental health to myself but found the culture was entirely different. At the start of my second week, I had severe anxiety and had to take a day off. Rather than the usual brush-off I’d experienced from past managers, my manager asked questions and sounded as if he cared.

From the start I was encouraged to share how I was feeling and to take time off when I needed to. I’m able to talk about changes in my mood and medication, and my line manager and I plan coping strategies together. I also get plenty of support from my team. They know if I say I need to go off for a few minutes that I just need a bit of space. It’s made a huge difference to what I feel I can achieve.

This doesn’t mean that life is easy. Mental health will always be a big part of my life and impact on my work. At times, depression can get the better of me and I have to work from home or in a quiet room at the back of the office. Manic episodes can also be hard to deal with, and I have to make an effort to slow down when talking, especially when discussing charitable beneficiaries. But I don’t have to brush my symptoms under the carpet. That is such a relief.

Mental health is a daily battle for many, but it shouldn’t define us. Being able to do my job – and being recognised for being good at it – has given me confidence to develop a career in fundraising. I’ve been promoted and now manage teams of fundraisers in Norwich.

All employers have a responsibility to make that a possibility for people living with mental health conditions. They need to prioritise creating a culture of understanding that provides support, rather than focusing on limitations. Until that’s commonplace, many people will never reach their potential. And that would be a waste of the huge amount of talent that makes our sector a diverse, creative and wonderful place to work.

  • Fran Holland is the deputy fundraising manager of HOME Fundraising’s Norwich office

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Antidepressants do work – but children need someone to talk to

Nearly a decade ago I found myself perched on the edge of a hard chair in a dark doctor’s office. I was 13 and struggling a lot with self harm, body image, and the simple task of keeping myself alive. Shuffling my feet and wondering how I ended up here, I remember not fully understanding what was happening when I was handed a little green prescription for Fluoxetine – an antidepressant drug often better known as Prozac.

Back then, my frame of reference for mental illness was pretty minimal. All I knew was that I felt numb and I wanted everyone to leave me alone. The thought of something being able to help felt so far away it was almost laughable. Antidepressants had never crossed my mind. Everything I knew about them was framed around the words of American emo bands or soap operas. As the doctor handed me the prescription, I remember it was talked about as the most natural thing in the world. “We’ll give you a course of pills and go from there.” What? Go where? Am I really hopeless enough that only drugs can fix this?

In 2008, I was just one of 40 million people worldwide taking a green-and-yellow pill each day. I was sceptical. How could anything make me feel better? But, 10 years down the line, I still pick up my prescription every month and cannot imagine my life without Prozac.

Last month, I read about how a major study had confirmed that antidepressants do work. The headlines – “The drugs do work” and so on – suggested that we were right all along to medicate depression as soon as it presents itself.

This message should be welcomed and will hopefully battle the stigma surrounding antidepressants. But, for children in particular, there is more to it. In June last year, it was reported that almost 65,000 young people in England, including children as young as six, were taking antidepressants . Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that they should only be given to teenagers and children with moderate or severe depression, when psychotherapy has failed. It also states that medication should always be taken in concert with other support, such as talking therapies.

Here is where my concern lies. When I was handed my first prescription, I was told that was the starting point, and that I could not possibly start any therapy without the medication. Before then, I had not seen a fully trained psychotherapist – nor did I even have a full diagnosis from the specialist team sitting in front of me. While I cannot predict how things would be if they had been handled differently – by offering children medication, before giving them the chance to talk to someone, we are telling them we would rather write them a prescription than listen to what they have to say. In moments of intense pain and suffering, children are often left not understanding what is happening to them and, instead of offering them a caring hand to hold, we are giving them a medicinal cold shoulder.

Yes, the pills do work. I’m not afraid to say that they have changed my life, and I honestly believe that without them, things would be very different for me now. But there are a whole host of other things being used to tackle depression that cannot be ignored. The entirety of my teenage years were defined by talking therapies, medication, hospital appointments and care plans. It was never the case that I was going to take the magic pills and things would get better for me, and to suggest that the drugs were responsible for saving my life would be to dismiss a lot of hard work by a lot of wonderful people. Countless therapy sessions and a close, trusting relationship with a dedicated nurse helped me get to the bottom of my illnesses and understand how to manage them. My family rallied around and learnt everything they could to be supportive and understanding. This came along with hospital care and, above all, my own hard work to get through it. Medication is an excellent tool for treating depression – but it is just that – a tool in part of a much more complex selection of resources.

I have sympathy with a system which is struggling among government cuts and lack of strategy, and can understand that sometimes offering medication is the first thing we can do in a child and adolescent mental health service with a wait of up to 18 months for initial support. As a society, we need to work harder to support – not just a quick-fix pill.

I am grateful for the support and love I received to get me to where I am today, and medication has been a valuable part of that. But I wonder, if people had not been so quick to prescribe the pills, perhaps I would be able to imagine my life without them today.

Antidepressants do work – but children need someone to talk to

Nearly a decade ago I found myself perched on the edge of a hard chair in a dark doctor’s office. I was 13 and struggling a lot with self harm, body image, and the simple task of keeping myself alive. Shuffling my feet and wondering how I ended up here, I remember not fully understanding what was happening when I was handed a little green prescription for Fluoxetine – an antidepressant drug often better known as Prozac.

Back then, my frame of reference for mental illness was pretty minimal. All I knew was that I felt numb and I wanted everyone to leave me alone. The thought of something being able to help felt so far away it was almost laughable. Antidepressants had never crossed my mind. Everything I knew about them was framed around the words of American emo bands or soap operas. As the doctor handed me the prescription, I remember it was talked about as the most natural thing in the world. “We’ll give you a course of pills and go from there.” What? Go where? Am I really hopeless enough that only drugs can fix this?

In 2008, I was just one of 40 million people worldwide taking a green-and-yellow pill each day. I was sceptical. How could anything make me feel better? But, 10 years down the line, I still pick up my prescription every month and cannot imagine my life without Prozac.

Last month, I read about how a major study had confirmed that antidepressants do work. The headlines – “The drugs do work” and so on – suggested that we were right all along to medicate depression as soon as it presents itself.

This message should be welcomed and will hopefully battle the stigma surrounding antidepressants. But, for children in particular, there is more to it. In June last year, it was reported that almost 65,000 young people in England, including children as young as six, were taking antidepressants . Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that they should only be given to teenagers and children with moderate or severe depression, when psychotherapy has failed. It also states that medication should always be taken in concert with other support, such as talking therapies.

Here is where my concern lies. When I was handed my first prescription, I was told that was the starting point, and that I could not possibly start any therapy without the medication. Before then, I had not seen a fully trained psychotherapist – nor did I even have a full diagnosis from the specialist team sitting in front of me. While I cannot predict how things would be if they had been handled differently – by offering children medication, before giving them the chance to talk to someone, we are telling them we would rather write them a prescription than listen to what they have to say. In moments of intense pain and suffering, children are often left not understanding what is happening to them and, instead of offering them a caring hand to hold, we are giving them a medicinal cold shoulder.

Yes, the pills do work. I’m not afraid to say that they have changed my life, and I honestly believe that without them, things would be very different for me now. But there are a whole host of other things being used to tackle depression that cannot be ignored. The entirety of my teenage years were defined by talking therapies, medication, hospital appointments and care plans. It was never the case that I was going to take the magic pills and things would get better for me, and to suggest that the drugs were responsible for saving my life would be to dismiss a lot of hard work by a lot of wonderful people. Countless therapy sessions and a close, trusting relationship with a dedicated nurse helped me get to the bottom of my illnesses and understand how to manage them. My family rallied around and learnt everything they could to be supportive and understanding. This came along with hospital care and, above all, my own hard work to get through it. Medication is an excellent tool for treating depression – but it is just that – a tool in part of a much more complex selection of resources.

I have sympathy with a system which is struggling among government cuts and lack of strategy, and can understand that sometimes offering medication is the first thing we can do in a child and adolescent mental health service with a wait of up to 18 months for initial support. As a society, we need to work harder to support – not just a quick-fix pill.

I am grateful for the support and love I received to get me to where I am today, and medication has been a valuable part of that. But I wonder, if people had not been so quick to prescribe the pills, perhaps I would be able to imagine my life without them today.

Antidepressants do work – but children need someone to talk to

Nearly a decade ago I found myself perched on the edge of a hard chair in a dark doctor’s office. I was 13 and struggling a lot with self harm, body image, and the simple task of keeping myself alive. Shuffling my feet and wondering how I ended up here, I remember not fully understanding what was happening when I was handed a little green prescription for Fluoxetine – an antidepressant drug often better known as Prozac.

Back then, my frame of reference for mental illness was pretty minimal. All I knew was that I felt numb and I wanted everyone to leave me alone. The thought of something being able to help felt so far away it was almost laughable. Antidepressants had never crossed my mind. Everything I knew about them was framed around the words of American emo bands or soap operas. As the doctor handed me the prescription, I remember it was talked about as the most natural thing in the world. “We’ll give you a course of pills and go from there.” What? Go where? Am I really hopeless enough that only drugs can fix this?

In 2008, I was just one of 40 million people worldwide taking a green-and-yellow pill each day. I was sceptical. How could anything make me feel better? But, 10 years down the line, I still pick up my prescription every month and cannot imagine my life without Prozac.

Last month, I read about how a major study had confirmed that antidepressants do work. The headlines – “The drugs do work” and so on – suggested that we were right all along to medicate depression as soon as it presents itself.

This message should be welcomed and will hopefully battle the stigma surrounding antidepressants. But, for children in particular, there is more to it. In June last year, it was reported that almost 65,000 young people in England, including children as young as six, were taking antidepressants . Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that they should only be given to teenagers and children with moderate or severe depression, when psychotherapy has failed. It also states that medication should always be taken in concert with other support, such as talking therapies.

Here is where my concern lies. When I was handed my first prescription, I was told that was the starting point, and that I could not possibly start any therapy without the medication. Before then, I had not seen a fully trained psychotherapist – nor did I even have a full diagnosis from the specialist team sitting in front of me. While I cannot predict how things would be if they had been handled differently – by offering children medication, before giving them the chance to talk to someone, we are telling them we would rather write them a prescription than listen to what they have to say. In moments of intense pain and suffering, children are often left not understanding what is happening to them and, instead of offering them a caring hand to hold, we are giving them a medicinal cold shoulder.

Yes, the pills do work. I’m not afraid to say that they have changed my life, and I honestly believe that without them, things would be very different for me now. But there are a whole host of other things being used to tackle depression that cannot be ignored. The entirety of my teenage years were defined by talking therapies, medication, hospital appointments and care plans. It was never the case that I was going to take the magic pills and things would get better for me, and to suggest that the drugs were responsible for saving my life would be to dismiss a lot of hard work by a lot of wonderful people. Countless therapy sessions and a close, trusting relationship with a dedicated nurse helped me get to the bottom of my illnesses and understand how to manage them. My family rallied around and learnt everything they could to be supportive and understanding. This came along with hospital care and, above all, my own hard work to get through it. Medication is an excellent tool for treating depression – but it is just that – a tool in part of a much more complex selection of resources.

I have sympathy with a system which is struggling among government cuts and lack of strategy, and can understand that sometimes offering medication is the first thing we can do in a child and adolescent mental health service with a wait of up to 18 months for initial support. As a society, we need to work harder to support – not just a quick-fix pill.

I am grateful for the support and love I received to get me to where I am today, and medication has been a valuable part of that. But I wonder, if people had not been so quick to prescribe the pills, perhaps I would be able to imagine my life without them today.

Antidepressants do work – but children need someone to talk to

Nearly a decade ago I found myself perched on the edge of a hard chair in a dark doctor’s office. I was 13 and struggling a lot with self harm, body image, and the simple task of keeping myself alive. Shuffling my feet and wondering how I ended up here, I remember not fully understanding what was happening when I was handed a little green prescription for Fluoxetine – an antidepressant drug often better known as Prozac.

Back then, my frame of reference for mental illness was pretty minimal. All I knew was that I felt numb and I wanted everyone to leave me alone. The thought of something being able to help felt so far away it was almost laughable. Antidepressants had never crossed my mind. Everything I knew about them was framed around the words of American emo bands or soap operas. As the doctor handed me the prescription, I remember it was talked about as the most natural thing in the world. “We’ll give you a course of pills and go from there.” What? Go where? Am I really hopeless enough that only drugs can fix this?

In 2008, I was just one of 40 million people worldwide taking a green-and-yellow pill each day. I was sceptical. How could anything make me feel better? But, 10 years down the line, I still pick up my prescription every month and cannot imagine my life without Prozac.

Last month, I read about how a major study had confirmed that antidepressants do work. The headlines – “The drugs do work” and so on – suggested that we were right all along to medicate depression as soon as it presents itself.

This message should be welcomed and will hopefully battle the stigma surrounding antidepressants. But, for children in particular, there is more to it. In June last year, it was reported that almost 65,000 young people in England, including children as young as six, were taking antidepressants . Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that they should only be given to teenagers and children with moderate or severe depression, when psychotherapy has failed. It also states that medication should always be taken in concert with other support, such as talking therapies.

Here is where my concern lies. When I was handed my first prescription, I was told that was the starting point, and that I could not possibly start any therapy without the medication. Before then, I had not seen a fully trained psychotherapist – nor did I even have a full diagnosis from the specialist team sitting in front of me. While I cannot predict how things would be if they had been handled differently – by offering children medication, before giving them the chance to talk to someone, we are telling them we would rather write them a prescription than listen to what they have to say. In moments of intense pain and suffering, children are often left not understanding what is happening to them and, instead of offering them a caring hand to hold, we are giving them a medicinal cold shoulder.

Yes, the pills do work. I’m not afraid to say that they have changed my life, and I honestly believe that without them, things would be very different for me now. But there are a whole host of other things being used to tackle depression that cannot be ignored. The entirety of my teenage years were defined by talking therapies, medication, hospital appointments and care plans. It was never the case that I was going to take the magic pills and things would get better for me, and to suggest that the drugs were responsible for saving my life would be to dismiss a lot of hard work by a lot of wonderful people. Countless therapy sessions and a close, trusting relationship with a dedicated nurse helped me get to the bottom of my illnesses and understand how to manage them. My family rallied around and learnt everything they could to be supportive and understanding. This came along with hospital care and, above all, my own hard work to get through it. Medication is an excellent tool for treating depression – but it is just that – a tool in part of a much more complex selection of resources.

I have sympathy with a system which is struggling among government cuts and lack of strategy, and can understand that sometimes offering medication is the first thing we can do in a child and adolescent mental health service with a wait of up to 18 months for initial support. As a society, we need to work harder to support – not just a quick-fix pill.

I am grateful for the support and love I received to get me to where I am today, and medication has been a valuable part of that. But I wonder, if people had not been so quick to prescribe the pills, perhaps I would be able to imagine my life without them today.

Antidepressants do work – but children need someone to talk to

Nearly a decade ago I found myself perched on the edge of a hard chair in a dark doctor’s office. I was 13 and struggling a lot with self harm, body image, and the simple task of keeping myself alive. Shuffling my feet and wondering how I ended up here, I remember not fully understanding what was happening when I was handed a little green prescription for Fluoxetine – an antidepressant drug often better known as Prozac.

Back then, my frame of reference for mental illness was pretty minimal. All I knew was that I felt numb and I wanted everyone to leave me alone. The thought of something being able to help felt so far away it was almost laughable. Antidepressants had never crossed my mind. Everything I knew about them was framed around the words of American emo bands or soap operas. As the doctor handed me the prescription, I remember it was talked about as the most natural thing in the world. “We’ll give you a course of pills and go from there.” What? Go where? Am I really hopeless enough that only drugs can fix this?

In 2008, I was just one of 40 million people worldwide taking a green-and-yellow pill each day. I was sceptical. How could anything make me feel better? But, 10 years down the line, I still pick up my prescription every month and cannot imagine my life without Prozac.

Last month, I read about how a major study had confirmed that antidepressants do work. The headlines – “The drugs do work” and so on – suggested that we were right all along to medicate depression as soon as it presents itself.

This message should be welcomed and will hopefully battle the stigma surrounding antidepressants. But, for children in particular, there is more to it. In June last year, it was reported that almost 65,000 young people in England, including children as young as six, were taking antidepressants . Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that they should only be given to teenagers and children with moderate or severe depression, when psychotherapy has failed. It also states that medication should always be taken in concert with other support, such as talking therapies.

Here is where my concern lies. When I was handed my first prescription, I was told that was the starting point, and that I could not possibly start any therapy without the medication. Before then, I had not seen a fully trained psychotherapist – nor did I even have a full diagnosis from the specialist team sitting in front of me. While I cannot predict how things would be if they had been handled differently – by offering children medication, before giving them the chance to talk to someone, we are telling them we would rather write them a prescription than listen to what they have to say. In moments of intense pain and suffering, children are often left not understanding what is happening to them and, instead of offering them a caring hand to hold, we are giving them a medicinal cold shoulder.

Yes, the pills do work. I’m not afraid to say that they have changed my life, and I honestly believe that without them, things would be very different for me now. But there are a whole host of other things being used to tackle depression that cannot be ignored. The entirety of my teenage years were defined by talking therapies, medication, hospital appointments and care plans. It was never the case that I was going to take the magic pills and things would get better for me, and to suggest that the drugs were responsible for saving my life would be to dismiss a lot of hard work by a lot of wonderful people. Countless therapy sessions and a close, trusting relationship with a dedicated nurse helped me get to the bottom of my illnesses and understand how to manage them. My family rallied around and learnt everything they could to be supportive and understanding. This came along with hospital care and, above all, my own hard work to get through it. Medication is an excellent tool for treating depression – but it is just that – a tool in part of a much more complex selection of resources.

I have sympathy with a system which is struggling among government cuts and lack of strategy, and can understand that sometimes offering medication is the first thing we can do in a child and adolescent mental health service with a wait of up to 18 months for initial support. As a society, we need to work harder to support – not just a quick-fix pill.

I am grateful for the support and love I received to get me to where I am today, and medication has been a valuable part of that. But I wonder, if people had not been so quick to prescribe the pills, perhaps I would be able to imagine my life without them today.

Antidepressants do work – but children need someone to talk to

Nearly a decade ago I found myself perched on the edge of a hard chair in a dark doctor’s office. I was 13 and struggling a lot with self harm, body image, and the simple task of keeping myself alive. Shuffling my feet and wondering how I ended up here, I remember not fully understanding what was happening when I was handed a little green prescription for Fluoxetine – an antidepressant drug often better known as Prozac.

Back then, my frame of reference for mental illness was pretty minimal. All I knew was that I felt numb and I wanted everyone to leave me alone. The thought of something being able to help felt so far away it was almost laughable. Antidepressants had never crossed my mind. Everything I knew about them was framed around the words of American emo bands or soap operas. As the doctor handed me the prescription, I remember it was talked about as the most natural thing in the world. “We’ll give you a course of pills and go from there.” What? Go where? Am I really hopeless enough that only drugs can fix this?

In 2008, I was just one of 40 million people worldwide taking a green-and-yellow pill each day. I was sceptical. How could anything make me feel better? But, 10 years down the line, I still pick up my prescription every month and cannot imagine my life without Prozac.

Last month, I read about how a major study had confirmed that antidepressants do work. The headlines – “The drugs do work” and so on – suggested that we were right all along to medicate depression as soon as it presents itself.

This message should be welcomed and will hopefully battle the stigma surrounding antidepressants. But, for children in particular, there is more to it. In June last year, it was reported that almost 65,000 young people in England, including children as young as six, were taking antidepressants . Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that they should only be given to teenagers and children with moderate or severe depression, when psychotherapy has failed. It also states that medication should always be taken in concert with other support, such as talking therapies.

Here is where my concern lies. When I was handed my first prescription, I was told that was the starting point, and that I could not possibly start any therapy without the medication. Before then, I had not seen a fully trained psychotherapist – nor did I even have a full diagnosis from the specialist team sitting in front of me. While I cannot predict how things would be if they had been handled differently – by offering children medication, before giving them the chance to talk to someone, we are telling them we would rather write them a prescription than listen to what they have to say. In moments of intense pain and suffering, children are often left not understanding what is happening to them and, instead of offering them a caring hand to hold, we are giving them a medicinal cold shoulder.

Yes, the pills do work. I’m not afraid to say that they have changed my life, and I honestly believe that without them, things would be very different for me now. But there are a whole host of other things being used to tackle depression that cannot be ignored. The entirety of my teenage years were defined by talking therapies, medication, hospital appointments and care plans. It was never the case that I was going to take the magic pills and things would get better for me, and to suggest that the drugs were responsible for saving my life would be to dismiss a lot of hard work by a lot of wonderful people. Countless therapy sessions and a close, trusting relationship with a dedicated nurse helped me get to the bottom of my illnesses and understand how to manage them. My family rallied around and learnt everything they could to be supportive and understanding. This came along with hospital care and, above all, my own hard work to get through it. Medication is an excellent tool for treating depression – but it is just that – a tool in part of a much more complex selection of resources.

I have sympathy with a system which is struggling among government cuts and lack of strategy, and can understand that sometimes offering medication is the first thing we can do in a child and adolescent mental health service with a wait of up to 18 months for initial support. As a society, we need to work harder to support – not just a quick-fix pill.

I am grateful for the support and love I received to get me to where I am today, and medication has been a valuable part of that. But I wonder, if people had not been so quick to prescribe the pills, perhaps I would be able to imagine my life without them today.