Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 – Kerrieann Brookes

Submitted by Connie Maddock | 13/05/2024

To support Mental Health Awareness Week this week, we asked colleagues to share their stories to help us educate and encourage conversations around mental health and raise awareness for those experiencing mental health challenges.

Please be aware that our colleagues have been very vulnerable, and each story shared this week will come with a trigger warning.

If you are a colleague, and suffering from any of the topics covered this week, please use our support service WeCare where you have access to 24/7 GP services and counselling. Additionally, Vertas Group have a number of Mental Health First Aider volunteers who you can contact should you wish to seek confidential support.

Alternatively, if you are not a colleague, but wish to seek support, the Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day – in full confidence. You can contact them here.

Kerrieann Brookes is a Chef Manager for Vertas and has consented to us sharing her story.

What is your experience with mental health? Please tell us about yourself, your story, and any challenges you may have faced. Anything you feel comfortable sharing.

I’ve battled PTSD for five years after a traumatic incident where I was threatened at knifepoint. Flashbacks are a daily struggle, and certain situations can trigger them. My doctor, therapist, and support workers from Vertas, Kelly Pearson and Evelyn Rayner, have been incredibly helpful in my recovery. Shouting and feeling cornered are very difficult for me to handle.

How have you found navigating the workplace? Please tell us about any challenges you may have faced. Anything you feel comfortable sharing.

Even with a supportive workplace, PTSD can make it difficult at times (understandably so). I am grateful for our workplace, the “Wecare” app, and mental health first aiders. Having someone listen and guide me has been incredibly helpful and positively impacted me.

Are there any common misconceptions or stereotypes you would like to address?

The common misconceptions about PTSD are the people who say things like “you’re just being dramatic” or “get over it”, not knowing or understanding that PTSD is an actual medical condition. It’s not about being dramatic; it’s about my brain and body reacting to past trauma. Flashbacks make me relive the experience, and it’s not something I can control. It’s essential to be patient and understanding with someone struggling with PTSD. Their reactions are not a choice.

What activities do you engage in to relax and unwind? 

I find peace and relaxation by taking walks with my camera. It helps me focus on finding beauty in everyday moments and creating lasting memories.

Are there any coping mechanisms you typically use during difficult situations that you would like to share with others who may be having a similar experience?

What helps me when I feel overwhelmed or triggered:

  • Stepping away: If possible, I physically remove myself from stressful situations to calm down. 
  • Focus on breathing: I use simple breathing exercises to slow my racing thoughts and bring my focus to the present.
  • Grounding techniques: Touching something cold helps bring me back to the here and now.

Thank you for sharing your story, Kerrieann.

This year’s theme is Movement: Moving more for our mental health, so along with colleagues’ stories, we would love to hear about what you do to support your well-being.

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