Richard Christy, 34 and from Blackpool, is vice chair of Making Change, a group of service user champions who work with us to help us to shape the services we offer.
In 2000, Richard was incorrectly diagnosed and sectioned under the Mental Health Act. This was the first of many labels he was given, being incorrectly treated for psychosis, schizophrenia and hypermania before finally receiving a bi-polar disorder diagnosis in 2008.
“There’s such a stigma associated with being sectioned under the Mental Health Act,” he says. “I want to show people that life does go on, and there can be a positive outcome for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to me.”
“Upon reflection, I realised bereavements I’ve suffered had a very big part to play in my ill-health, but I had been self-conscious of people’s feelings towards me and that people thought I was crazy and didn’t understand where I was coming from.”
“During my final admission to hospital, I worked with an advocate from Blackpool Advocacy who helped me to appeal my section enabling me to, leave the hospital. This intervention and help was the turning point for me – having someone speaking on my behalf helped me to get through things. For the first time, I accepted my illness and care plan and from that moment on I decided that I would start my own bipolar support group.”
As soon as he was able to go home, Richard contacted us. “They agreed to help me make my dream come true and set up a support group,” he says. With the charity’s help, Richard held his first meeting in 2008 and, seven years on, is still holding two meetings every month.
As well as running his support group, Richard plays a leading role in Making Change. As vice-chair, he has direct links with our board of trustees and has the opportunity to influence change.
Richard explains: “We meet every 6 weeks for a few hours to look at the different projects Making Space is running. We talk about the policies behind them, and discuss any ideas we have that can make a difference to the lives of people with mental health issues and adults with disabilities. Our feedback is written up into action plans that help shape services.”
This positive attitude and commitment to helping others has seen Richard transform his life. He met his wife, Michelle, in 2006 and this stable and loving relationship helps Richard to embrace his future.
“I have my voluntary work with Making Change and the bipolar support group, I have the right medication and I have support from my friends and family. Yes, it’s definitely been an emotional rollercoaster that has had a vigorous impact on my life, but if I hadn’t had the experience of going into mental health services I wouldn’t be here now to tell my story.
“Hopefully, it can help other people and stamp out the stigma.”