Optimistic about changing tides
I am compelled to respond to Dr Khadija Rouf’s letter in the November issue regarding lived experience. As someone at the very start of their psychology career, the notion that my own traumatic experiences could cause me not to ‘fit’ into the profession is alarming, but I am optimistic about the changing tides. It is truly a bizarre perspective – the notion that only an outsider can help, only the unbroken can help the broken.
Rouf talks of the various ways that openness about her abuse acted as a barrier to her study and traineeship. Whilst we are starting to challenge this in the psychology profession – and the recent guidelines cited by Rouf are a good starting point – this survivor or trauma discrimination remains apparent in other public-facing roles.
At present I work for the police service and am a postgraduate conversion student in psychology. I am diagnosed with depression, I am dyslexic, and I have come from a household in which domestic violence occurred. When I applied for my police role, I was asked to disclose any health issues and I disclosed my depression. An occupational health team member called me to discuss whether my depression would make me unsuitable for the role. My qualifications and experience were not challenged, but the disclosure of a mental health issue became the tipping point in my new career.
After a gruelling wait, I was given my position which I have been in for nearly three years. I have found myself opening up about my own experiences and mental health with other survivors, and they have felt more comfortable talking about their own issues. I have spoken about medication, therapy, and what worked and did not work for me, offering support to them.
Of course, others are just as capable as me. In my opinion, openness about my lived experience offered survivors something they perhaps have not had before: relatability. I echo Rouf’s appreciation of clear guidance surrounding lived experience, but can we go further? Could the BPS and the psychology community do more, with proper guidance, to allow people to be authentic, to allow lived experience to benefit our interactions in all occupations? Experiences should not be hidden away, but, to a degree, embraced.
MSc Student in Psychology
Nottingham Trent University
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