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‘I’m not ok and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that’ says Crawley Councillor as he opens up about mental health

As part of Mental Health day a Crawley councillor has opened up about his own mental health issues to show local people that it is ok to open up and talk about the issue.

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Liam Ascough is a councillor for Gossops Green in Crawley

Gossops Green Councillor Liam Ascough has written an open letter to his colleagues at the council to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Addressing directly the Council Leader and the Chief Executive, Liam writes:

“Dear Peter and Natalie,

After watching the ‘Every mind Matters’ TV advert, supported by the Duke and Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex, I felt that I had write this open letter of apology but also to help continue the conversation on mental health issues. 

I want to apologise to the both of you, members of staff, fellow members of the council but most importantly to the residents of Gossops Green and North East Broadfield because it’s ok not to be ok and I should have said something a long time ago. 

I have suffered bouts of depression since 2015 but I put that all on hold when my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2017. This happened in the same week I was unceremoniously let go as a Conservative Parliamentary candidate, finished with the partner I thought I’d married and buried a great friend of mine who had died of cancer. October 2017 wasn’t my best month!! 

When I stood as a Parliamentary candidate in 2015, I was on top of the world. I was doing what I’d wanted to do since I was 14 (yes I know, I’m a geek). It was such a full on campaign and I felt I was at the centre of it. After that though, it felt like I’d been dropped like a hot potato. Like I’d been on X Factor one minute and then you were nobody. The Party wasn’t interested in you anymore and suddenly you go from being a somebody to be a nobody again. 

I carried on as if nothing was wrong, although inside I felt deeply depressed and used. Then October 2017 happened and it all got a lot worse. 

Sadly I lost my best friend in my mother on January 4th this year after a monumental battle with cancer. She put up such a great fight but not a day will go by that I don’t miss my mother. Watching her in so much pain, was beyond heartbreaking. 

I put a brave face on, as I always do and tried to get on with things. Sometimes not so well though, as I remember a very kind family in Gossops Green took me into their house whilst canvassing, after I started to cry. I should have known at that point that I wasn’t really coping. 

It wasn’t until my birthday in July that it finally all hit me. Again, I tried to put a brave face on and project the image that everything was ok. The thing is, I’M NOT OK!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that either. I should have said it a long time ago! 

I am sorry for the meetings that I’ve missed and the emails that I haven’t replied to!! I should have said something before. I just couldn’t admit it to myself let alone anyone else! 

The thing is, now that I’ve admitted that I’m not ok, I can finally start to get help and to get back on track.

That’s why I wanted to write this open letter. To say sorry for letting people down. To explain what’s been going on and to be honest about it. Probably most importantly, to let others know that’s it’s ok, to not be ok. I needed to be honest with myself.

The help I received from St Catherine’s Hospice has been invaluable! I am also incredibly blessed to have an amazing network or friends who are my family. 

I am getting through this and I will recover.

Some will think I’m just feeling sorry for myself and that I should ‘man up’. To be fair that’s something I would have said before. Regardless I still think it is ok to say that I’m not ok. I encourage anyone who isn’t feeling ok, to talk about it.

You are not alone and don’t have to ‘man up’ so to speak.”

If you would like more information and help on any issues to do with mental health you can find out more at:

https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/

Community

Local volunteers drive GPs to essential home visits in Crawley

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Image: Dr Phoebe Danes and volunteer Chris Ball.

Local volunteers have stepped up to help drive clinicians to home visits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The initiative was launched by local GP federation Alliance for Better Care, who have rented black cabs to provide essential transport for clinicians attending patients’ homes. 

The taxis, which have been adapted to make them easier to clean, are driven by volunteer drivers who have come forward via various community Facebook groups.

Thanks to the layout of the cab, drivers are completely separated from the clinician who is also afforded extra space in the cab to put on PPE and write up notes. 

Matt Cullis, practice manager at Leacroft Medical Practice said:

“Our surgery is still open to treat patients, however, home visits have become particularly important for those who are shielding and not wanting to leave their homes. This service saves us time and allows our doctors to travel to appointments in an environment that can be easily cleaned and has room to put on PPE.”

Alliance for Better Care is the GP federation for Crawley, Horsham, Mid-Sussex and East Surrey and so far the project has been rolled out at Leacroft Surgery in Crawley and throughout Burgess Hill, with plans to extend it to East Grinstead and Horley in the coming weeks.

Katherine Saunders, ABC chief executive said:

“We have been overwhelmed with the number of volunteers who have come forward and we’d like to thank them all for offering to support this service. We are, of course, committed to protecting both our volunteers and our clinicians. We insure drivers and carry out all necessary checks while also providing PPE. This is a valuable resource for our clinicians, and increases our capacity to reach more patients.”

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