Being an intern at Papworth Trust has been eye-opening. I have been looking into how the Trust can show that it's ready to meet the Time to Change pledge; researching and writing a mental health policy; and preparing a booklet explaining why businesses should make themselves more accessible for both disabled customers and employees.
Researching mental ill health has been an interesting challenge, requiring me to get to grips with current reports and advice on mental health. As a history student, this was an area I had no previous knowledge of, but the similarities in the research skills needed meant I felt that I could adapt fairly quickly.
I've learnt a lot about mental health; something the Shaw Trust calls, 'the last workplace taboo'. For a start, one in five people who have disclosed a mental health condition at work have been forced to quit or simply fired.
Whilst physical disabilities are probably unlike anything non-disabled people have experienced, most of us have felt 'depressed', 'stressed' and 'anxious' at some point but often recovered quickly. Ironically, this tends to make severe depression, stress and anxiety less understood and disregarded precisely because we can think we can empathise more. We must develop a greater awareness of the difference between mental health difficulties and mental health illness. In any case, neither should make a person unemployable: supporting those with mental ill health can be as simple as letting an employee come in and leave an hour later if their medication makes them drowsy in the morning.
I approached this internship with a view to working for a charity in the future and have been fortunate to have been given my own research project. In a sector that is difficult to get into, I am very grateful to Papworth Trust for giving me some valuable work experience that has extended far beyond making tea for the office!