• Natalie Kemp

Difficult Not Impossible?


Craig Barton is a Clinical Associate in Applied Psychology (CAAP) in NHS Lothian, currently working at the mild-to-moderate end of the spectrum in the Psychology Service at St. John’s Hospital in Livingston (in case you don’t know, the CAAP job title stems from the MSc in Psychological Therapy in Primary Care run by the Universities of Stirling and Dundee, which has been running since 2005). He has 28 years experience of coping with his recurrent depression alongside working in mental health as an Assistant Psychologist, Support Worker, Mental Health Nurse, Research Nurse, CPN and CAAP in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. He published a self-help book based on his personal and professional experiences in 2017. Craig is a member of in2gr8mentalhealth. Here is more from Craig…

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Mmmm, ok...... so what are the pros and cons of self-publishing a 150 page self-help book on clinical depression from a personal and professional perspective, when you work in that profession........... ?

Thinking ensues… Pros : Well, I’ve put 13 years of (intermittent) hard work into this and it has been useful in my own journey of self-discovery, in that I am now more aware of how I tick and what is helpful and unhelpful for me. The process has ultimately resulted in a useful manual for me to refer to if required. It has also helped my family and friends understand at least a little bit better what has affected me at times over the years. Moreover I think it is a useful contribution to the wider self-help market, it’s a good mix of personal and professional experience, and crucially, my gut instinct is that I need to do this. Also, on the one hand I really want to highlight how clinical depression is so very different from healthy sadness, while on the other hand I want to normalise a tendency to recurrent episodes of depression as requiring sensible management, much like any other chronic illness eg asthma, arthritis and diabetes. Last but not least, perhaps I can also help combat stigma among mental health professionals. I’m sure I read somewhere that over 60% of us have struggled significantly with our mental health at some point in our lives. That’s way more than the general public isn’t it? Most of us really are “wounded healers.

Cons : But wait a minute. What will my NHS colleagues think of me? Will I be embarrassed / humiliated ? What about if patients / clients in the local area hear about it? Am I breaking ethical boundaries? Will my career be affected? Could I get the sack? .... maybe overall it’s not worth it, especially since self-publishing is going to cost me the best part of £500.

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The above is kind of how the decision to publish was playing out in my head as I neared the end of the writing phase of my book, “Difficult Not Impossible : How to Survive Clinical Depression” in spring 2017. It is based on 27 years of intermittent struggle and took 13 years of writing, revising and updating, on and off. The pro argument won the day quite easily really (once I have a “bee in my bonnet” I tend to press on anyway). But not before I had a discussion with my line manager, who wasn’t sure where I stood, so advised me to contact HR. I sent them an open and honest email but heard nothing back. That was my definite green light to press on and take what felt like a (calculated) risk. Turns out my catastrophic worries were unfounded. I am still in my job in an NHS Psychology Department, despite admitting to a suicide attempt and recurrent depressive episodes in my book. Many colleagues have been openly positive and supportive about it. Some have not read it and some have not said much, but that’s ok. The reality has certainly been nowhere near the predicted catastrophe envisioned by my worrisome side.

I presented a small piece at the departmental meeting recently entitled “Reflections on Self-Publishing a Self-Help Book on Depression”. I was way more nervous than I thought I was going to be. I felt vulnerable and hesitant in front of my peers. But I got through it, it was difficult not impossible. Then one of my colleagues mentioned the notion of the “wounded healer”, and most in the room agreed. I may be fortunate in terms of the people around me in my department. It is always an individual call as to whether someone feels safe enough to disclose, whatever context you are in. But perhaps we all tend to catastrophise too much about self-disclosure, when the overwhelming majority of our fellow therapists really don’t have a big issue with it, and can actually feel liberated by it themselves. 

“Difficult Not Impossible : How to Survive Clinical Depression” by Craig Barton. Available on Amazon.co.uk for £6 paperback and £4 e-book.   

#CraigBarton #ClinicalAssociateinAppliedPsychology #depression #mentalhealth #AssistantPsychologist #SupportWorker #MentalHealthNurse #ResearchNurse #CPN #CAAP #Book

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