Eileen O’Hara

Story Number:Story-003
Themes: mental health, NHS

Please note this story contains strong language.

So, I think it’s fair to say that my story of activism in the mental health arena is about challenging authority and, um, and winning. Um, so I spent a month in the Glenbourne Psychiatric Unit in Plymouth. And, um, so that was a very scary experience and then, there was an advocate who, who worked there and I said to him, you know, I want to do what you do. Um, because the sense of disempowerment was so awful. Um. All I knew was that it was the worst experience of my life, and that includes being on the streets of Plymouth, where at least I felt I was free [laughs]. So, I thought, you know, um, I need to learn about this, I need to really get under the skin of this mental health thing, so that if [pause] the shit hits the fan again I know what to do.

So basically that’s what triggered my activism, yeah? I was like, I either pretend this never happened or I fucking face this and grab it by the balls and do something with it, yeah? And fortunately, there was an amazing organisation in Manchester called Rochdale and District Mind. So I joined, um, this project called the Growth Project, which was working on an allotment, so my – and it sounds supremely cheesy but it’s actually true [laughs] – that my journey to, to well-being was digging on freezing cold ground, in January, twenty-ten. And that was it, it was like cracking through the ice [laughs]. Um, and so through being involved with Mind, you know that was the, the door opening to what was possible. You know, I’m Buddhist, and I kind of do believe that things kinda happen in the right way ultimately.

So I was doing some befriending with this organisation called Making Space, which is a mental health organisation up there. So I must have, it must have been when I applied for the CRB [Criminal Records Bureau], so this was my first CRB since all the shit had hit the fan. Before I’d been in the Glenbourne Unit, my CRB was clear. So, say in twenty-ten, when I first applied, so where it says ‘Any other relevant information’ it says, um, ‘Eileen O’Hara was in the Glenbourne Psychiatric Unit in, say, probably 2009. We’re not aware of her current mental health, therefore we cannot say whether she is a risk to vulnerable children or adults’. So in other words they’re saying, ‘she spent a month in the loony bin, therefore – question mark – we’re not willing to say yes or no. But we’re willing to put this statement on there that basically fucks up any chance of her ever getting a fucking job.’ [Laughs]. Yeah? So when I got that I was obviously fucking horrified. I wrote this letter to Charles Walker MP. So then Alastair Campbell printed that whole letter on the front page of his blog. So I think that helped, getting it out there. You know, and Rochdale and District Mind, one of their advocates really helped me, so in the end I needed legal representation, nothing else was going to do it. So she found me this amazing lawyer in Manchester. Um, and he said, “Yeah. We’ll send them a letter”. [Laughs]. And they kind of went, “Oh yeah we’ll just take that off then”. And that took another few years of my life, in the end, yeah. But I won.