#DeedsNotWords Interview: Rosita Wilkins

In our latest #DeedsNotWords interview, we caught up with Hafal service user and carer Rosita Wilkins. Here, Rosita discusses what it is like to be a carer – and the mental health issues women face today.

A hundred years after suffrage, do you think women have achieved gender equality?

Not entirely. There is still inequality of pay in many circumstances. Women are certainly recognised in many areas as being able to make decisions, to hold mortgages, hire purchase in their own names, etc., but there is still a long way to go.

Why do you think there is a need for the #DeedsNotWords campaign?

With mental illness, any campaign that helps to challenge stigma and discrimination against people of all genders with mental illnesses is welcome. That women are not second-class citizens should also be accepted by all. Every person is an individual, despite their age, colour, religion, gender or sexual orientation and they should be recognised for their individuality, abilities and achievements.

What do you hope we achieve with the campaign?

Acceptance, recognition of women in general as equal members of society.

Which women have inspired you, and why?

Baroness Trumpington – she is not afraid to speak her mind.

About three quarters of mental health carers are women. Do you think carers are given the support they need?

Carers are virtually ignored by the staff from the Community Mental Health Teams when they call on the person with a mental health problem; in some cases, not even asking them how they are. Carers are the people who have the 24-hour, 7 day-a-week role and may even be not well. No one except the carer knows how the patient really is because many people with a mental health problem hide their true feelings and behaviour.

What would help you most in your caring role?

Carers want to have someone they can turn to in an emergency and discuss the situation with. They also need someone who shows that they care and are interested in them as an individual. Most carers are very resilient and can cope but the thought of a back up and support service in emergency situations would be very comforting.

What are the key issues and challenges that you face as a carer?

  • Gaining recognition as an important and integral member of the rehab team.
  • Finding initial and adequate support.
  • Coping with stress, aggression or whatever other problems there may be with the “cared for” person.
  • Looking after children or other members of the family as well as the person who has mental health problems.

What would your advice be for other women who are new to a caring role?

  • Join a local Carers group and gain friendship and support.
  • Find out about carers’ rights, Carers’ Allowance and other funding.
  • If necessary try and get regular breaks or respite, allow some “me” time – sometimes Personal Care Funding can be available for a support worker.

What do you think are the mental health issues facing women today?

I don’t think that mental health issues are very different for men or women (I am an ex-mental health patient and so is my husband). Generally, I don’t think gender is the issue; upbringing, circumstances, perspectives, genetics all play a part in how a person reacts at times of stress, and what illness they suffer from.

Mental health services are the “Cinderella” services and have been for many years; neither men nor women get the help and support that they need. Social media has resulted in young children and teenagers being pressurised by their peers and hounded by trolls and hate mail, etc. Very young girls are harming themselves. I wonder how these young people will be in another decade?