"My name is Thomas, I am 31 years old and have been working voluntary as an Expert by Experience for the past three years now. I have vast experience of using mental health and social care services and hope I can make better the services that I and many others rely on, as we pursue recovery and our own hope of a happy ever after.
"I am thankful for the opportunity I have been given to at least to try to strive for better things. I started off my volunteering by doing some work around section 117 aftercare (a legal obligation for people released off a treatment section that need further care). I wrote about my own years of experience of aftercare to help commissioners with future planning and decisions. I have also met with the chief inspector for Derbyshire constabulary about changes to the way police can act and process a person in crisis or distress in a community setting.
"Again, I have used my own experience to suggest improvements so that people get the right help sooner. I have been talking to senior commissioners in Derbyshire about dual diagnosis and acute inpatient admissions and around prototyping new services. I was publicly elected as a Governor for the Derbyshire Healthcare Trust whilst living in Erewash and hope to run again in future elections for my new voting area.
"I think I was probably the first Governor to attend a meeting from a hospital ward on one occasion! And whilst in hospital I helped to design a new sensory assessment tool to help clinicians understand the sensory needs of autistic people whilst on an in-patient ward. My work as an Expert by Experience has been a life line and passion for a few years now and with the backing and support of Mental Health Together I hope the role has allowed me to make changes to better patients services in a few settings. I will continue to use my knowledge experience and passion alongside the professional bodies I work with to make better change."
Commenting on the work Thomas helped to develop, James Lewis, Head of Joint Strategic Commissioning for Learning Disabilities and Autism said:
"Thomas has provided invaluable insights into how local services can better help autistic people be recognised, validated and live the lives they want. We are so grateful for his generosity & honesty in sharing his experiences and ideas."
If you're autistic, have a learning disability, or are neurodiverse and would like to
play a part in improving local services then please email: email@example.com
to schedule a confidential discussion.