Havering woman who empowers others to take care of their mental health
PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 January 2016
When Julia Turner began feeling unwell in 1991 she had never heard of mental health or depression. It would be seven years before she sought help and longer still until she received the therapies that would help restore her confidence.
Twenty five years later she is operations manager at Havering Mind and has helped thousands of people overcome mental health difficulties.
“I had never even heard of the words depression or anxiety, I’d never even heard of the words mental health. I did not know what that was,” she said.
“I began feeling unwell in 1991 and although that’s only 25-years-ago it was a whole different era.
“It wasn’t acceptable – it was so taboo that you felt, actually, like a freak. Like you were the only person ever to have felt these things.”
Eventually Julia went to her GP who prescribed medication, which did not help her. It was not until she accessed talking therapies, more than seven years after first experiencing symptoms, that she began to set herself on the path to recovery.
A major breakthrough for Julia, 53, of Havering, was signing up to volunteer at Havering Mind, Harrow Lodge House, Hornchurch.
She said: “My friend recognised that I was struggling with my mental health and she worked at Mind.
“I started coming on a Wednesday making tea, helping out and chatting to people. I was very reluctant and really didn’t want to do it but she was quite forceful that I should do it and I’m really glad that I listened and took a chance.”
Julia’s depression and anxiety reduced her self confidence and self esteem, leaving her reluctant to engage in social situations.
Meeting others who had been through mental health difficulties helped her to address her own problems.
“Coming to Mind sparked my interest in finding out why I’d become unwell, it helped me look at myself and study what had caused it and how I could help myself,” she said.
“I was actually going out, meeting people and having an interest.”
When a casual position came up Julia took it. She has now been at the charity for 18 years and manages its projects.
She said: “You see people coming in very distressed, you speak to them and they are very upset and don’t know what to do.
“They’re in need of support, advice and guidance. Havering Mind helps them through that process and you start to see them recover. To smile, take part in things and support their peers.”
Julia is passionate about empowering people to seek help and learn how to monitor and improve their own mental health.
She said: “You can feel absolutely mad when these things happen to you and it’s important to share that with someone who is going to understand.
“It’s important to look at yourself, your personality, your coping skills, and see whether you can do anything to help yourself and protect your wellbeing. To recognise your own stress triggers and prevent yourself from becoming unwell.
“The main thing I’ve learnt is how we can all find a way to help ourselves to recover if we are given the correct tools, information and advice early on rather than letting things become ingrained.”
Knowledge and acceptance of mental health has come on a long way in the past 25 years but Julia said there is still a lot of work to do.
“I think you really would have to have been living on another planet not to have heard of mental health, but there is still a stigma around it,” she said.
“It’s thought of as something that happens to someone else and there’s a lot of work to do to make us all feel like it’s something we can talk about with our families and talk about to young people.”