Teal speakerphone. Text: Podcast

Podcast: David Woodhead

26 February 2024

Thea Joshi sits down with David Woodhead, our Associate Director of Research, to hear about what LGBT+ History Month means to him. He shared how his experiences as a gay man have affected his mental health, for good and ill, and about his journey from addiction to recovery. It was a really moving conversation, and it exemplified the way that lived experience, albeit painful, brings a depth and a richness to our fight for better mental health.

Content warning: This episode includes description of living with addiction, the AIDS epidemic and makes reference to an incidence of violence against gay men.

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Music by scottholmesmusic.com

Listen to the episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. The full transcript is available below.

Show notes


Alethea Joshi (AJ): Hello and welcome to Centre for Mental Health’s podcast. Centre for Mental Health challenges, policies, systems and society so that everyone can have better mental health. I’m Thea Joshi, and each episode I speak to people with experience of mental health difficulties, someone working in a specific area, or a member of our team about mental health and social justice. And this month, I sat down with David Woodhead, our Associate Director of Research to hear about what LGBT+ History Month means to him. He shared how his experiences as a gay man have affected his mental health, for good and ill, and about his journey from addiction to recovery. It was a really moving conversation, and it exemplified the way that lived experience, albeit painful, brings a depth and a richness to our fight for better mental health. And just a reminder, that Centre for Mental Health is a charity and we don’t get any funding to produce this podcast. So if you find it helpful, please consider donating at centreformentalhealth.org.uk/donate. Hope you enjoy.

Alethea Joshi (AJ): So welcome, David. It’s wonderful to have you here on the podcast. Finally, hello.

David Woodhead (DW): I’m so delighted. I’m so pleased to be here. And for LGBT History Month as well. It’s great. Thank you.

AJ: Amazing. And so you’re our Associate Director of Research.

DW: That’s right, I am.

AJ: So yeah, just tell us a little bit about yourself, your work, but also your life.

DW: Yeah. So I’m David, I’m a gay man in his mid 50s. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that. I grew up in Yorkshire in a small northern seaside town in the 1980s with all the joys that that brought. And when I was 18, I went to London to study at university and I was in London, pretty much solidly apart from with a couple of attempts to escape. But London dragged me back. I had been there up until last year when I moved to the coast, and I now live on the south coast.  And yeah, I’m the Associate Director for Research.

My working life has been pretty much always about understanding inequality better, and trying to work out what we can do to help. And some of that, I think a lot of that is around poverty and socio economic factors. But there are also people factors of which sexuality and gender are definitely two important ones that I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about and living and writing about and trying to understand since I kind of started to realise really my difference, when I started to understand in the early or the mid 1980s that I was gay and what that meant, and how I could make sense of that. And how I could come out and how I could be kind of adjusted to all of that and enjoy it to its full. And to some extent, those questions are still with me, they just land differently when you’re middle aged, but they’re nonetheless still really pertinent. One way I’m trying to make sense of it is I write outside of work. I write stuff, badly, mainly, poor poetry. But also I’m writing a memoir, which is very close to finishing.

AJ: Oh, I love that. And I just want to say as well, thank you so much for sharing with us today. I know this stuff is really tender and personal. And I’m really grateful to you for being here and being able to have this chat with you. And you mentioned your writing. If listeners don’t know, David is a fantastic writer. And I absolutely love the stuff that you produce. He’s produced lots of amazing blogs for us and lots of different bits. So we will link to all of that in the show notes. So you can go and yeah, enjoy. It’s great stuff. So you mentioned that obviously it’s LGBT History Month in February. And I’d love to know, what does that mean for you?

DW: Isn’t it interesting? It means all kinds of things. Some big things, some small things. Sometimes LGBT History Month comes and goes and I don’t even notice. Sometimes it comes and it just lands with me at a time when it’s really important. I was in Bloomsbury yesterday afternoon, I was on the way to therapy actually, to my psychotherapy, and I walked through the campus of SOAS and they’ve got a big banner outside for LGBT History Month. And it really it reminded me of when I was like 19 or 20. And I was just coming out and I picked up an Armistead Maupin novel. And I read it and it just felt like when I see those banners, it feels like I can see myself in that and I am seen, we are seen, and it’s just so important. I think because we still, even more than ever actually in some ways, I mean things that have happened this week kind of underscore just how we’re not always seen or we’re seen with malicious intent. And so for me just that identification, just that moment of seeing myself and seeing us in the eyes of others is really important.  But there’s something also interesting about LGBT History Month nowadays, which is that, you know, I used to love studying history, I did A level history, and I absolutely loved it, learnt a lot about modern European history and also British history and it really formed my political sensibilities, all that study. The Russian Revolution, Second World War, all that stuff, really, you know, the trade union movement in this country really, really was important to me. But history was always something over there, it was always something to study over there. Whereas now, at 54, when I think about LGBT history, the history is something that I’ve been through.

AJ: You were there! You were there when the history happened!

DW: But that can be quite scary, actually. I mean, obviously, there was lots of history with before I was there. And that was also important to me, when I was reading, you know, my 14 year old self, in my bedroom at home on an evening trying to make sense of things. I was writing very angry letters to the local paper about nuclear bombs and nuclear war. And at the same time reading things like Oscar Wilde, and trying to make sense of the historical past, but now I’m part of that history. And that’s utterly terrifying, but also really, really important to remember.  When I first came out and I became quite political, I met really good friends at university that we all were kind of enjoined with this. And that’s a critical point about my friends at university. Because when we get to the later part of my life, it was those friends that saved my life.

So there is something about sometimes in life, you’re doing something in the moment, and you can’t possibly understand what that will become in the future. And I think that for queer people is really important. Autonomous liberation, that was the kind of politics that we were engaged in. And one of the things that feminists used to say very much, the women’s movement at the time, there was this slogan, which is, the personal is political. And what they meant by that was that not only do laws try to control women’s bodies, not only do men, parliaments try to, you know, write what is acceptable and not acceptable for women to be and to act, but actually, conversely, the things that women did were intensely political, the domestic sphere, reproduction rights, all that was really political. It was that kind of two way. And I suppose for me now, I would say, the historical is political. Or the historical is personal, or the personal is historical is what I’d say. So you know, not just that I’m old. But also that, you know, nothing is without context. Everything that we’re experiencing today has a root in something that happened previously. You know, there would never have been a Second World War if it weren’t for the fact that Germany was under such terrible financial discipline after the First World War. There’d have never been a First World War if they hadn’t been the problem in the Balkans. Every story has a context. And I suppose, where we are now and the things that I’m motivated to do now, very much are rooted in my past in my history and those big moments that I went through that I’m sure we’ll talk about.

AJ: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. And I’m intrigued, you’ve led us on very neatly into talking about your own experiences and how you think some of these experiences that you’ve touched on have impacted your own mental health.

DW: Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? I think, when I look back, and again, as I said, I don’t think I realised at the time, but when I look back, there are things happening both as a young gay man, as a young gay person, but also outside of that, that really had a formative effect on who I am. And I suppose there are big political events like the miners’ strike, for example. Now, I wasn’t a miner, I was living at the seaside, but I had family that were living in mining towns, and it was this assault on them and our community. And that at the age of 13 or 14 really opened me up to thinking about resistance and activism and kicking back and standing up for each other. And I think, because I knew I was gay, because I knew I was different, because I was in this small town, because I went to a Catholic school, because I couldn’t speak of my sexuality to anybody, I think I put a lot of my effort into other people’s struggles. And it became a way of finding a voice without telling the truth about who I actually was. And so I think the minus strike was was a big move for me. 

So then I came to London, desperate to get away from Scarborough. Came to the bright lights of London, came out shortly afterwards. And actually, what I came out into was glorious and good fun and I found friends, friends that I still have, and we went out and we had a fantastic time. It was this kind of celebration and explosion of energy and youth and sex and drinking and getting dressed up and all this stuff. And it was a moment where the gay community really started to have this kind of confidence. It was when the venues on Old Compton Street in central London started to explode and there was lots of places to go. And I had friends in Manchester and Manchester was really ablaze, all of Canal Street. There was lots of stuff to go and do and be with each other and have fun. There was a long shadow as well, which was around HIV and the AIDS epidemic. And even though I kind of missed that first wave of panic, it was still around. And I remember when I was younger, and I was in Scarborough, and I was kind of sat on my own, utterly terrified. Part of the reason why I was absolutely terrified about coming out, not just because fear of letting people down not just because fear of upsetting the applecart at a Catholic school, but part of it was a deep fear of AIDS and actually believing in this tiny little way, this little insular bubble up in North Yorkshire, that somehow being gay and having AIDS were the same thing. And there was an inevitability about it. And inevitability about the death, an inevitability about the stigma, which really marked me, I think. 

And then I came to London, and there was all that fun, and it was great, and I made friends, you know, I had my first boyfriend and all that stuff, it was all fab, there was this fear, this deep fear for all of us really. I can’t say that I was part of that set, that cohort of gay men who started losing all their friends, when people around them were dying. I wasn’t part of that. But there was a deep fear for me, that that was very close. And I did know people that were ill. And I did know people that died, but they weren’t in my closest circle, but nonetheless, it was there. And I think that marked me, and I think it marked all of us.  And it was also at the time of Section 28. There was a lot of institutionalised hatred. You know, regardless of whether section 28 actually was, you know, how it was implemented, just having it hanging in the air, that politicians were able to say those things, that sense that not only that you weren’t worth as much, but pretty much that you were contagion, that you were something that was eating away at the fabric of all that was good, was pretty powerful really.

And then I remember in the early 90s, just after I graduated, there was a man called Colin Island who was picking up men in a pub in Earl’s Court and taking them home or going home with them and murdering them. And I remember the absolute fear, I remember not wanting to leave the house, even though I didn’t go to Earl’s Court, I was living in East London. Because I think it really just brought to a head the fear that we were feeling about our credibility our legitimacy, whether we would be protected. And this deep feeling that if I’d have been picked up by that guy and murdered, that the shame would be on me for having been in that situation in the first place. And I think this thread of shame that that took hold in my teens and in my 20s, I think is something that I’ve struggled with, ever since. So they were very big, external things, but they had a direct impact on me and my friends. And I think it led me later, in that moment, but the behaviours that became really problematic later, which is that I was drinking too much. I started taking drugs, recreationally at first, having lots of sex and kind of seeking relief in ways that actually gave momentary relief, actually gave me a momentary sense of fun and excitement and excess, but in the longer term created a lot of problems for me, which I’m sure we’ll talk about.

AJ: Yeah, I would love to talk a bit more about that. It sounds like from what you’re saying that you can kind of trace back this underlying but pervasive sense of fear and of shame.

DW: And of disconnect, Thea. A kind of disconnection. And in the disconnection feeling like a kind of need to overcompensate. You know, I was always the last to leave the club. I was always the last to go home. People were packing up their bags and saying it’s time to go, and I’d be like ‘just one more drink’. And I think it’s interesting, because what I’m talking about in those external things are really important. But when it comes to addiction, who knows what causes it. You know, there’s lots of theories, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at theories. Is it some kind of trauma that I bore as a young child? Is it some kind of trauma that members in my family bore earlier on that actually generationally has been handed down? Is it because there’s something in my brain that can’t switch off? I don’t have an off switch, I just keep going. Is it just something inherent to me that actually means that I would have always been an addict anyway? It’s very difficult to work out.

But I will say that, I think, because I was gay and because I came out in that moment and because of AIDS and because of this commercial explosion of the gay scene that was just replete with opportunity and possibility and voice and visibility, that all those things came together. And I don’t know what the cause is, you know, it’s really seductive to want to draw straight lines, from one to another thing. And I said that for a long time, I used to say, there’s a straight line from the AIDS epidemic, and actually, I think it’s probably more complicated. But nonetheless, that set of circumstances, whatever I was going to be, I might have been an addict anyway, but coming out into that public health crisis, coming out into that climate of fear and hate, then trying to reconcile in a society that, you know, puts a huge premium on heteronormative things, on marriage, on family, all that stuff, and still does, that actually, that sense of disconnect, from which I tried to find refuge in drinking and taking drugs and having sex and spending and all the stuff that addicts do, I think it was an explosive combination.

AJ: That’s really interesting. And you’re right, you know, it’s very tempting to want to kind of say, well, x+y=z. And you’re right, it’s not as clear cut as that. But I think it is helpful to be able to trace back and go like, Okay, where did this come from. And as you said, at the beginning, like the wider context in which these things are happening, none of this is happening in a vacuum, none of our lives and the way that we act is happening in a vacuum and the kind of combination of factors that led you to that place. So you found yourself sort of drinking and taking drugs and having sex and spending and all of these things you’ve just mentioned. Where did things go from there?

DW: And also enjoying a successful career. I was 27 when Labour came into power, when Tony Blair’s government came into power in 1997. Suddenly, the public sector became this kind of box of opportunity for people. And there were all these kinds of jobs, looking at all these kinds of things that just weren’t possible before. And I was working at a think tank that was very prestigious, still is. And it opened all kinds of doors for me. And that moment of a robust and population orientated, inequality orientated public sector, created all kinds of opportunities for me. So I was doing good jobs, I was being paid well, I felt that I was under a lot of pressure to deliver. Notwithstanding all the privilege that I’ve got as a white cisgendered man, I’m not pretending it’s woe is me. You know, I enjoyed it. It was great. I loved the kind of sense of authority, I loved the kind of status that it brought me. 

But at the same time, there was this dark side, which was when I wasn’t at work, the growing sense of disconnect, and I think it’s very easy to talk about heteronormativity. But in London, for me, in the 1990s, and the 2000s in particular, I was feeling there was quite a strong kind of normativity in the gay community as well. You had to look a certain way, you had to dress a certain way, you had to be going to a certain gym, you had to be going to certain clubs, you had to be into certain kinds of music. And I never felt as though I fitted in with that either. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t present in amongst it all. I was probably overcompensating in all kinds of ways and you know, having a great time and having a terrible time. Because the thing about drinking and drugs is that when you’re in it, it’s fantastic. But the next morning, if you’ve managed to get some sleep between the night and the morning, the next morning is pretty, pretty rough and all those things from which I sought to escape were there with stronger potency. And it’s a cliche with addiction but you know you have to do more and more in order to get anything like the same kind of effect.  And all that was fine. It was, it was all fine, it was a very fine balance of working hard and drinking hard and playing hard and trying to engage with family and see my friends and my gay friends. And spending a lot of time on my own. You know, because the one thing I do know about people that are in the throes of quite severe addiction is it is incredibly lonely. Because you don’t want the people that you love the most to see you at your least appealing. So what you end up doing is you end up surrounding yourselves with people that are also in a similar situation because it kind of minimises possibility of judgement.

And then about, I would say, my late 30s, early 40s. The hubcaps, I know cars don’t have hubcaps anymore, but the hubcaps were loosening, and the nuts were starting to come off. And there was a point when, you know, you can kind of manage with loose hubcaps until there’s a point that a wheel comes off. And then you are in trouble. And of course, I don’t want to overplay this metaphor, but once one wheel comes off, the likelihood of the other ones coming off is pretty high. And very quickly, very quickly, I went from having what might have seemed from the outside a very stable, well paid, status laden job, doing good stuff, in a very comfortable life, I came very close to losing it all. And then I did nothing to rescue myself from that situation.

And within a couple of years, I had lost everything.  And I mean, there’s the material stuff but who cares about that, really? I mean, that’s one thing that sobriety has taught me is that I think we put a lot of value in things that really do not matter. But also it was friendships and stuff and distance. And even though I’d kept in touch with most of my friends, you know, one of them said to me recently, she said, ‘I thought you’d just disconnected for me. I’d go out with you and it was like you were talking to somebody else.’ There was no connection. I couldn’t connect to people. There was there was no connection. And another friend said to me, ‘are you having an affair? You just disappear for days on end. I don’t know where you are.’ And that was because I was in what my sister and I call now – I mean, I think there’s a whole podcast, I think there’s a whole series of books to be written about the power of sisters, or at the very least the power of my sister – but anyway now call it Narnia. This sense of, you know, I used to go through the back of his wardrobe and be part of this world that was kind of we could see what normal people were doing, getting up and going to work and having relationships and having friendships and getting dressed. We could see those people but they couldn’t see us and that kind of really dark, in all senses of the word, life of being quite a serious addict is incredibly isolating.

AJ: And I think you’ve really put words to that isolation, that loneliness, that complete kind of sense of disconnection. And thank you for shedding light on that. I kind of just want to acknowledge that and say thank you because I know this stuff is raw still and just even talking about it I know can be hard so thank you for sharing it. And I’ll link to this, you wrote a blog after Matthew Perry’s tragic death last year, and I recently finished reading his memoir and I know you’ve read it as well and that for me as well was another powerful insight into the insidious nature of addiction and the way it kind of just creeps around every part of your life.

DW: It’s my pleasure. When I tell these stories, it sometimes does feel like story to me because I think it’s so painful what I did to myself and what I did to other people. Even though I haven’t had a drink or taken any drugs for, in June it will be nine years of complete sobriety, which I find really shocking because it’s like a third of my adult life or maybe a quarter. And I find that really amazing, given how much I used to drink and how much my identity – you know, if you wanted to see David you went out for a drink. I mean that was kind of the terms of the deal really. And poisons everything. And I think there’s something about the kind of desire to achieve or over achieve. Obviously, Matthew Perry’s success is a gazillion times more than mine, but that idea that somehow you can be seen, your worth is in what people see and what you produce. I don’t think it’s any surprise that there may well be an over representation of challenges of addiction for people who are famous, because I think that needs to be seen and yet that fear of being seen at the same time is so deep.

AJ: So you found yourself in that place. It sounds pretty desperate, very hard, as you said, very bleak. I’m not suggesting there was just one turning point but where did you see that turn, that change?

DW: There’s one thing worse than being an addict. And that’s been somebody who lives an addicts.

AJ: Yeah, that helplessness.

DW: And just not knowing what to do and the fear. Because, as other friends have said since, they were utterly convinced I was going to die, I was going to kill myself, they were utterly convinced that that was going to happen. And they didn’t know what to do. And that morning, I didn’t know what I was going to do, I didn’t have anywhere to go. And I don’t believe in a higher power, but my phone rang and it was my friend Julian who lived in Cairo. And Julian is a friend that I met at university, the first few days when I went to university. And he was in Cairo and he said, ‘How are you doing?’ And I said, ‘Julian, I’m in a real mess. I don’t know what to do.’ And he said, ‘come here, come to Cairo, come to Egypt.’ So I said, ‘Well, if you put the money into my account, I’ll buy a ticket.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no, I’ll buy you a ticket.’ So you know, they had the measure of me, because it’s true, I would have gone to a dealer and spent it on drugs. 

And I went to Cairo, and that was the beginning. That combination of the realisation of what I was doing to the people that I loved the most in the world, and Julian’s intervention. And I went to Cairo and I stayed there for several months. And I don’t think I’d say that’s where the recovery began, I think that’s where the sobriety began. That’s where I was able, in a country where you can’t drink, you can’t take drugs, you can’t be actively homosexual, you know, all those things that I was kind of, in absolute abundance, excess, disastrous excess, catastrophic excess with, was not possible. And it was a bit of a shock when I got there. I mean, I think the first two weeks, I just slept, and I was shouting in my sleep and stuff. I mean, I think Julian was really, really concerned. And then I went to live and to work on a farm in Luxor in the Valley of the Kings. So I’d get up in the morning and there’d be all these ancient pyramids and statues and all these different pharaohs and stuff. And I was there and I was feeding alfalfa to cows and it was all really, really small and lovely, actually. And that’s where the recovery began. And I came home, and I regressed a little bit. I didn’t relapse, but I regressed a bit. And so I sent a message to my sister saying, ‘Do not come and meet me at Gatwick. I don’t want any fuss, do not come.’ And I got off the plane and I thought I wish somebody was here to meet me. And I walked through the doors. And my sister and my niece were there with a banner. And it was just, that’s love, Thea. That’s what love is. And it saved my life.  Then after that was a slow, slow rebuild, I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t see people. Two friends got married, I couldn’t go to the reception. I just couldn’t. The thought of being with people, the thought of being with people who were drinking, the thought of all that stuff. And I just became, you know, a bit kind of reclusive. And that’s when I started writing. And it was the writing and the poetry. I used to this thing called PIFMOF, which is poems in 15 minutes or fewer.

AJ: Oh, wow.

DW: I know they were terrible. But it doesn’t matter because that the point of it was, if I did nothing else that day, I could say look, I did this. And I stayed with Hillary, and that was good. And my nephews and my niece, I mean, you know, the kind of love that 8 and 9 year old boys can express for their Uncle David. One of them used to tremble – ‘Uncle David’s here! Uncle David’s here!’. Now, of course, now they’re 17 I say ‘morning’ and they’re [like ‘whatever’]. So that kind of helped. And it was slow, I did a bit of consultancy work. My friends were open armed, because they kind of knew enough about me to know who I really was and not what I’d become. And that love was redoubled.  And I always thought that mine and my sister’s relationship was special. And we were close. But I don’t think I was ready for that sense of closeness and intimacy that we now have as a result of that time.

So, you know, some good things came out of it, it’s just awful that I created so much pain on the way. And anyway, so then I started to work and people that I’d worked with previously that knew that I was okay, you know, kind of gave me bits of work and supported me and put me in touch with the people. You know, I had lots of privilege, you know all those privileges of being a white middle class (I became a middle class man after university), I pulled on those, and they kind of helped and I’m very, very aware that other people don’t have those things. You know, people stepped forward to help me, I know that for a lot of people, people step back and let them just fall down the cracks, I am aware of the privilege and how lucky I’ve been. And then I started doing blogs for this organisation called Centre for Mental Health.  And there have been setbacks along the way. On my the third year anniversary of my sobriety, I thought, I’ve never had an HIV test. And I know that in all the chaos that I created, when I was in active addiction, that I took some big risks. And I went and it came back positive. And whilst it wasn’t a huge surprise, it is a kind of constant reminder to me, of the consequences of my poor mental health, you know, that we talk about a lot at the Centre about the relationship between mental health and physical health and this arbitrary kind of separation, that doesn’t always make sense. And I think that was an absolute example of how the consequences of poor mental health will be with me always in terms of the HIV that I have. But I’ve also got a great, great clinical team at Chelsea & Westminster, they are incredible. So it’s not all bad. And I’m very aware that if it had been 20 years before, I probably would be dead by now. Every morning, I get up and I take my tablets, and they keep me alive. And of course, it has a huge impact on your mental health to think if I stopped taking these tablets, I would die. But it is a chronic disease, it’s not terminal in the same way. But again, you know, it’s that same thing about feeling supported. And because I’m of this age, of my 10 closest gay male friends, more than half of us are HIV positive. So, you know, we try to support each other as best we can.

AJ: Thank you, David, for sharing that, and being so honest. So you’ve talked about the amazing power of the love of family and friends, and how that can really bring you back from the brink. Are there other things that you feel, as we finish, that have really helped you?

DW: I think the thing that partly led me into being into the trouble, this idea of an abundant and present and outspoken gay community is actually a real asset. It’s always been an asset. It created opportunities for me because of who I was that were disastrous, but actually, I gain succour and pride from being part of that community. I’m always reminded of James Baldwin when he said that identity are the garments that clothe the naked self. And I think my identity is really important in kind of keeping me safe. And so my identity as a gay man, with lots of other gay men and lesbians, and bisexual people and trans people, this month but always, is really important, really, really important. And you know, I’ve got fantastic friends who are allies who have been really, really supportive and unconditional and very, very lovely and important to me. But there is something about that tethering for me, and my mental health of knowing who I am. Of having somewhere to kind of hang my coat and say, yeah, that’s my tribe. For all its flaws and all its inconsistency and all its limitations, that’s my tribe. And I think the other thing that has really helped has been different therapeutic interventions. So my mother died last year and it was really very, very difficult for me. And my therapy group that I’ve been in for four years now has been incredibly supportive. And I know that the evidence base for therapy is contested. And I know you can’t always access it if you need it if you don’t have money. And I know that the limitations, but I think is a modality of being able to maintain and to find myself and to explore, and to feel held and safe, my psychotherapy is really important to me.

AJ: I do say this most episodes, but I literally could ask you a million more questions. And I’d love to just sit here and listen to you talk because your stories are amazing, everything you shared. We do have to finish but I just want to say thank you so much.

DW: No, thank you, Thea. You’ve made it really easy. You’re like the Michael Parkinson of Centre for Mental Health. Everybody wants to talk to you.

AJ: We’re gonna cut that bit out for sure.

DW: Something else as well, this is a bit of a plug for Centre for Mental Health, which is, this is the first job I’ve ever had, where I feel as though I can bring all this stuff with me and I’m not judged. And that is really important.

AJ: I was just about to say thank you because I know that you bring all of this to you to your work at the Centre, you bring that compassion, that lived experience, that sense of wanting to be seen and wanting other people to be seen and recognised and known. You bring all of that with you to your work and it’s the richer for it. So thank you. I know all of this stuff is hard and not easy to talk about. But we’re so grateful for what you’ve shared today.

DW: Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

AJ: Thanks so much for listening. I really hope this conversation inspired you in the fight for mental health equality. We rely on support to fight for change, so please give what you can at centreformentalhealth.org.uk/donate. See you next time.

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