Hi everyone its Steve O`Driscoll here and I was a Service User with the R.F. for around 4 years and it was in 2010 that R.F. changed my life for the better. I became very heavily involved in Service User opportunities. I left the R.F. around 2011-2012 and had obtained many skills around Public Speaking, delivering training and interviewing techniques to name but a few and I did not want to let all those skills go to waste.

I think I was given a gentle push by the Benefits Agency to get back into employment as I was asked to go to a fitness for Work interview and I like so many other people was awarded no points and was told to go to my local Jobcentre and ask to see a Benefits Advisor. I duly did what I was told to and I was told that you can`t just walk in and see someone, so me being me I told them that they could politely keep their benefits. I then went back to see Alisdair Cameron whom I was volunteering for at Launchpad ( Mental Health Service User Involvement in Newcastle Upon Tyne ) and told him my situation. Alisdair asked if I was interested in working on a Freelance basis for Launchpad to which I said yes and ever since then I have not looked back, using all the skills I had been taught by the R.F.

I started working on a Freelance basis which was a big step for me, but I had to push myself out of my comfort zone on many instances, a thing which I still believe in to this day. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone is how I keep myself well to this day.

Some of the amazing things I do on a daily basis are things when I was unwell I never thought I was capable of. Examples of this are I work at Northumbria University on the Social Work programme where I interview potential Social Work students year in year out and I also give presentations on my life and I am the Chair of the Service User and Carer Committee for Social Work and I am also a Live case study on the Social Work degree an achievement of which I am really proud of because as far as I know Northumbria is the only Uni I know that uses a live case study. I also interview at Newcastle Uni for Clinical Psychology students a job which I really enjoy.

I also facilitate a Self- Harm group in Newcastle which is still going strong after 5 years ( I was a self-harmer for over 20 years and that is why I think the group is so successful as I have lived experience ) and I facilitate 2 Friendship Groups on a Saturday morning in North Tyneside as I know living on my own how lonely weekends can be for people living on their own.

As most people know due to my illness my Daughter was adopted when she was 2 years old and it has been my intention to find my Daughter for over 20 years and in September 2017 I found her and I am so proud how Vicky has turned out. Vicky is a beautiful young lady and very intelligent and has settled down very well in life. On meeting Vicky I was amazed to find out that I had become a Grand- Father to an amazing 4 month old boy whom I am hoping to build up a relationship in the future and Vicky has a wonderful partner and is doing very well at Uni. A lot of people said I should write a book so me being me I have written 2 books, one about my illness and one about my recovery which I thought would be a great way of answering a lot of questions which my daughter needed answered and both are available in Northumbria University’s library.

I also deliver a lot of training for training for Time To Change ( a National campaign to break down the Stigma around Mental Health ) . The good thing about my work is that every day is different, I am not stuck in a 9 to 5 job and each new day brings a different challenge which I know keeps me well. I still take a lot of medication, morning, noon and night and I have come to realise that you can still lead a “normal” life even though I am on a lot of medication.

On the 10th of October 2017 I was invited to Buckingham Palace to attend a reception as a way of thanks for all my work in Mental Health over the last 5 or 6 years held by William, Harry and Kate which is where I bumped into Joe Redmond from the Richmond Fellowship and was asked to write this article for the magazine.

I guess that the point I am trying to get across is that Recovery is possible with the right support behind you and believing in yourself. So if you get an opportunity in life instead of saying no give it a go and you will never know where you will end up.

I am living proof as I was asked to speak at the House of Lords in 2010 and I was going to say no but I gave it a go and built on the opportunities that came my way. It`s hard to believe that I lecture at Uni and the only qualification I have is in my life experiences. So believe me when I say anything is possible.

Steve O`Driscoll.