Georgina Wakefield is carer to her son Christian who has schizophrenia. She is also an author, trainer, consultant and former user of mental health services.
Career highlight: Getting my first book, Schizophrenia: A Mother’s Story, published.
Best moves I’ve ever made:
*Taking part in a BBC 2 documentary, Loving Christian, about my son’s condition and how it affects our family.
*Forming Spotlight on Schizophrenia four years ago, a consultancy offering help and advice to carers and training for professionals, from a carer’s perspective.
*Writing books: plenty on mental health is published by academics but there’s not much out there about the huge emotional impact schizophrenia imposes on families. I have written three books about schizophrenia, including dual diagnosis (mental illness and drug/alcohol misue).
*Working for the National Institute for Mental Health in England (Nimhe)
as fellow for carers, including researching what support is available.
Single most inspiring person I’ve met : Dr Dianne Cambell Lefevre, who heads the psychotherapy department at Basildon Hospital and is an extremely compassionate person.
Me and my career:
Having suffered the pain of mental illness myself, my worst fear came true when my youngest son became ill. I have suffered from manic depression periodically for the best part of my adult life. As predicted by my psychiatrist, the illness burnt out when I turned 40. Two years later my son Christian developed schizophrenia, aged 16.
I was absolutely grief stricken, for many years I was also bitter and shell-shocked. Writing is my saviour. Helping other carers and trying to make a difference is the answer for me.
The idea behind my work is to give staff is a real feel of what life is like for carers of mentally ill people, and to improve relationships between carers and professionals.
Christian is 30 and lives in his own flat 10 minutes away from us as he does rely on us for support.
I run courses at the Institute of Psychiatry. I work as a freelance consultant for NHS trusts including my local one in Essex, where the chief executive read my first book and asked me to come and train his staff. In partnership with Nimhe and the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, material from my books is being turned into training manuals for professionals.
I work with the voluntary sector and have done talks for mental health charities Maca, Rethink and Mind. I enjoy working in the field of mental health, meeting professionals and carers and sharing experiences.