Graduate stories: Natalie Simon

Natalie Simon, an Addiction and Mental Health graduate, shares her story and reflects upon her time at London Met.

Date: 11 December 2018

When I think about the process of writing my application to study Addiction and Mental Health MSc at London Met, I recall the fear and apprehension, thinking ‘Am I good enough’ and ‘Will I be able to manage this interesting yet challenging course?’ I had an adverse childhood experience, as my own mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. My sister and I were taken away and lived in various care homes. A strong stigma existed and I found it difficult to mention my mother’s name or even to talk about her mental health.

Being a mature person now, I thought it was the appropriate time to tackle my fears and challenge this stigma which surrounds mental health. At the time of applying for this course, I had a decent job as a Senior Employment Advisor/Trainer, however, I desired a career change. As a result of starting my course at London Met, I had the opportunity to volunteer and then secure paid employment with SANE, a leading UK mental health charity.

Strength in diversity

London Met is extremely diverse which makes it a great place to study and I’ve made many useful contacts. The modules I found most interesting were; Law, Ethics and Policy in Mental Health, Cognitive and Emotional Influences on Health and Evidence based interventions and treatments. My dissertation entitled - A Thematic Analysis of the experience and attitudes of alcohol consumption in women aged 18-40 in Grenada, provided me the opportunity to undertake research which enabled me to travel to the Caribbean.

Writing my dissertation was extremely hard work and I was fully determined and committed to succeed. The supportive lecturers made it easier for me to remain focused and achieve my goals, I must admit I did experience personal struggles too but I was finally awarded my degree in July 2018.

Throughout my studies, I knew I really wanted to make that difference and reduce the stigma associated with mental health and that’s where the vision for ‘Ending Stigma Grenada’ started. Sleepless nights were spent researching and I found that Grenada offered no mental health awareness training of the kind I was planning. I continued to create mental health awareness training materials, created the logo, t-shirts and email address. I was set and ready to go and delivered the first ‘Ending Stigma Grenada’ Wellbeing and Resilience Workshop in October 2018.

The feedback demonstrated that people now felt confident to openly talk about their personal experiences and share within a safe space. People left the mental health training feeling more equipped to understand stress, to recognise the symptoms of stress, to identify stressors’, to learn various methods and coping techniques and to be aware of how healthy living will contribute to overall wellbeing. In addition to delivering the workshops, I found myself becoming an ambassadorial spokesperson, influencing via social media, TV, radio, newspaper and encouraged debates to reduce the overall burden of mental ill health.

I would like to see many more people trained in mental health awareness and feel empowered to challenge stigma within their own communities. Thank you to to London Metropolitan University who have definitely equipped me with leadership and entrepreneurship skills and confidence to achieve my goals.