Steve Gauci, a Unison Mental Health Champion and the Mental Health Champion for the Clinical Diagnostics and Therapeutics Clinical Board, gives his personal experience of mental health, and how it inspired him to become a Mental Health Champion.
Steve said: "I wrote this blog (which has taken a lot of courage) for Mind Cymru, in the hope that I may encourage anyone reading this that has, or knows anyone with a mental health issue to seek help, be open and discuss their illness, and in the hope that this blog may help towards eliminating the stigma that’s often associated with mental health. Mental illness is like any other form of illness, mental illness knows no boundaries, it can strike family members, friends, and co-workers – and you may not even know it.
"My name is Steve Gauci and I am proud to be a Mental Health Champion, staff side lead rep and MH Champion, for the Clinical Diagnostics and Therapeutics Clinical Board, Cardiff & Vale University Health Board.
"The Unison Mental Health Champion training is an accredited course and part of Unison’s (Cymru) pioneering work on MH in the workplace. The MH champion training has been a great success and Unison is planning to roll the training out nationally.
"My role as Mental Health Champion is in working to raise the profile of mental illness and elicit a cultural change in the workplace, by tackling the stigma associated with mental health. Working towards ensuring that effective action is being taken against causes of workplace stress, and to ensure that members suffering mental health problems are adequately supported by their line managers. And to help members suffering with stress, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue by directing them to the best available advice and support.
"My personal experience with mental health started 7 years ago, when my wife of 51 years of age died after a very long and traumatic illness. I found the run-up my wife’s death very traumatic; I was at a very dark place! for months after my wife passing, I found it hard to sleep, I’d stay awake going over events in my head, over and over again, until sheer tiredness crept in and I’d eventually fall asleep, only to wake up in a cold sweat due to recurring nightmares, and then having to wake a up a couple of hours later to go to work, I felt physically and mentally exhausted!
"My wife and I were married for 33 years, and all of the sudden, there I was, living alone in a big empty house, and I felt extremely isolated and lonely. I couldn’t bring myself to expressing my feelings with my children as I knew they were also hurting very much, and somehow I felt that I was protecting them by not discussing my feelings with them.
"I remember friends and people I know would often avoid me; I guess that it’s difficult knowing what to say to someone who has been bereaved!
"I eventually decided to seek help from my GP; which is when I was diagnosed as having post traumatic stress.
"My GP signposted me to the excellent Cruise Bereavement Service, the Cruise councillor was brilliant, at last I had someone I could talk to. Somehow, I found being able to express my feelings to a stranger a lot easier!
"I am passionate about mental health issues especially workplace stress, and I am actively raising mental health awareness within my workplace by holding MH awareness events etc.
"I would like to thank Unison, CD&T Clinical Board, and Mind Cymru for their support.
"If you have any questions, issues or just want a chat please give me a call on 07903394822 or please contact the UNISON office on 029 20748280."
If you would like to be featured as a Time to Change mental health Champion, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org