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Improvements could be made to mental health service provision thanks to Beccles woman

PUBLISHED: 17:30 10 February 2017

Melanie Goodwin is the chairman of international survivor led charity First Person Plural which was set up to raise awareness for people living with dissociation. Picture: Nick Butcher

Melanie Goodwin is the chairman of international survivor led charity First Person Plural which was set up to raise awareness for people living with dissociation. Picture: Nick Butcher

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A Beccles woman’s tireless work has propelled a frequently unrecognised mental health condition onto a professional platform uniting clinicians from three different sectors.

For the first time in the UK, representatives from the NHS, private and voluntary sector, will address a pioneering conference in Norwich next month with the aim of improving services for people living with trauma related dissociation.

It is the culmination of 20 years worth of perseverance for Melanie Goodwin, who was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder many years ago and now chairs the only survivor-led charity in the country supporting people with the condition.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is common in people who have experienced repeated trauma at an early age. A child’s innate drive to survive means they often compartmentalise the abuse and have no conscious awareness until they are older.

Sufferers experience shifts of identity that manifest in different personalities. Each identity may be in control of a person’s behaviour and thoughts at different times.

Mrs Goodwin had no idea of her painful childhood until she was nearly 40, but credited her four children and her long term career at Beccles Library as an important part of her journey.

She set up the charity First Person Plural with fellow survivor Kathryn Livingston two decades ago and runs it as a membership organisation.

“There was a newsletter that came out for people living with DID and both of us got hold of a copy and we used to write for it,” she said.

“The isolation 20 years ago pre-internet was extreme, and to find a resource and know there were other people experiencing similar things to myself was literally a life saver.

“When we found out that there were plans for only one more edition Kathryn and I were each devastated.

“We started producing the newsletter and we have now provided four copies a year for the past 20 years.

“I feel very privileged to be able to use my experience to raise awareness and help to demystify and take the stigma out of a condition that has been universally misunderstood.”

The charity seeks to improve the understanding of professionals working with people affected.

The women’s work includes training GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists, rape crisis centres, housing associations and a whole host of other organisations both here and abroad.

Their aim is to help 
provide easier access for assessment, treatment and continued care.

Mrs Goodwin said: “Sadly, not a lot has changed in the past 30 years. It is often misdiagnosed, but things are changing slowly. For many people reading this, things will not have changed at all and they will still be battling to get the right help. Our aim is to raise awareness for the condition by networking and collaborative working.”

She is currently liaising with psychologists at Hellesdon Hospital to develop an effective pathway for getting the right help.

“It is so important that we develop a recognised pathway, starting at GP level, supported by an informed mental health team and a strategy that is adopted nationally,” she said.

The Facing the Challenge conference will take place at the University of East Anglia in Norwich on March 30 and 31, with more than 30 workshops 
available.

Mrs Goodwin said: “It is an area of my life that is very complex and I have to manage it every day. It may appear that I’m getting on with everything and it has a minimal affect, but you have to learn how to accommodate the damage it does to you. It leaves a very painful scar.

“If someone had told me 20 years ago I would have been organising a conference of this calibre with all but two UK speakers I wouldn’t have believed them. Look how far we have come.”

The conference is being run by the European Society for Trauma and Dissociation, the Division of Clinical Psychology and First Person Plural.

To book visit http://www.estduk-training.org.uk

Visit www.firstpersonplural.org.uk

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