Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Dolly - Interview 14

Female
Age at interview: 36
Age at diagnosis: 21

Brief outline: Dolly, a 36 year old writer and author, is of mixed ethnicity (White/Asian), and first experienced psychosis aged 14. She finds Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Buddhism and meditation very useful.

Background: Writer, single. Ethnic background/nationality: Mixed race (White/Asian) (UK born).

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Dolly is a 36 year old writer who describes her ethnic origin as mixed White and Asian. Dolly's books include' The World is Full of Laughter and Am I Still Laughing? (see www.dollysen.com). 

Dolly began hearing voices aged 14 and attempted suicide 3 weeks later. Social Services referred her to a child psychiatrist who recommended she withdrew from school - Dolly says she did nothing between the ages of 14 and 20 and her GP was of little help, telling her to pull her socks up. At the age of 21, Dolly got a new GP who referred her to the local mental health team. She was prescribed anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication and attended 6 weeks of counselling. Around this time, Dolly started writing and this is what gave her a purpose in life and way of coping. Without her writing Dolly believes she would have committed suicide. 

Dolly has not been given a clear diagnosis' her psychiatrist says she has schizophrenia, while her GP says she has psychotic depression. She hears voices, sees shadowy characters, and experiences depression. Dolly believes that schizophrenia runs in her family and that this, coupled with an abusive upbringing, bullying at school, and a severe bout of glandular fever made her vulnerable to schizophrenia.

Dolly sees a psychiatrist and a CPN regularly and is now on a waiting list for psychotherapy after 22 years of waiting. Dolly has been hospitalised 4 times, and sectioned once' she describes hospital as harrowing. Dolly believes the system is racist. She has witnessed Black people being treated differently in hospital and says that hospital staff made incorrect assumptions about what language she speaks and what food she eats because of her ethnic background. Dolly thinks that it would close the gap between professionals and service users if mental health professionals had personal experience of mental health problems and came from a minority ethnic background.

Dolly thinks there is a lot of misunderstanding about schizophrenia and avoids using the term to describe herself, although she says she is open about having mental health problems and gives talks to police, schools etc. Dolly has experienced discrimination because of her mental health - for example, she was told at the job centre that she couldn't be a writer and was harassed by a neighbour. 

Dolly has tried 22 different types of medication and now takes an atypical antipsychotic - Quetiapine (Seroquel) - and an antidepressant - Citalopram. She thinks medication has helped but not cured her. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been the most useful thing, along with her writing, music, film making and art. Being a Buddhist helps Dolly to control her negative thinking. Meditation helps her to be more self-aware and she finds it physically and mentally calming. Although she cannot meditate when she is psychotic, it helps her to avoid reaching that point. Dolly also finds acupuncture and massage help her feel less stressed. She has been to support groups but found them depressing. Dolly says the love and support of her friends help her to stay well and out of hospital - they have been through the same thing and understand how she feels.

Dolly feels that although she has been through bad times, she has come out with strength, dignity and a passion about life and she is about to start a university course.

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