Mel Smith is a Member of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Service User Governor, representing West Sussex.
Mel has had a neurological condition since she was young, but over the last 6 years has developed a mental health illness.
In her own words, here is Mel’s inspiring story about how she came to be a Member and why she is encouraging more people to get involved with their local NHS mental health trust.
Membership really does matter.
"Seven years ago I contracted a virus. This virus left me near death, in a coma, for months. Suddenly (and most unexpectedly) I came out of the coma. My family had been prepared for me to never recover. However, the virus caused a mental health problem. For the next five years I was in hospital. For every moment of those years I tried my very best at every single thing I was asked to do, at every single thing I was told to do and at every single thing I needed to do. For not one moment did I feel accepted for who I was, nor did I feel liked for who I was. But then I got involved in voluntary work where the patient is turned to and asked to give their perspective on the services within the hospital where they are receiving care and treatment. This work was greatly enjoyable – I finally had a feeling of self-value. And when I left the hospital I had been in I missed it greatly.
I moved to Sussex and I looked around for things to do. I discovered the voluntary work one can do with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and I signed up straight away. I knew this opportunity would be a way of doing the kind of work I had been doing before in the hospital. This voluntary work led me to hearing about the Governorship elections for the Trust. I was unsure of my abilities and when I addressed this with staff I had been working with in my voluntary role I was very greatly encouraged.
Now, I am a Service User Governor for West Sussex and I must tell you that joining the Membership of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust really does matter. You are wanted, needed and heard – your opinions and experiences (both bad and good) are totally wanted. Your opinions count, they matter. Please join as a Member; then you can see how they are heard, and you can see that we pay attention and act on what we hear. My old boss from years ago said to me "We are all like computers Mel….. Some might be wired a little differently but still make valuable contributions."
So please do join as a Member – your contribution will be valued."