Author Archives: Anne Williamson

  1. We are raising vital funds for our Looked After Children Services and need your help.  Here is Stephen’s story:

    Leave a Comment

    Stephen is 7 years old and has ASD& ADHD.   He was placed with a foster family after a very difficult childhood and was soon thriving. The entire foster family thought of him as “their own” and he was settled for the first time in his life.

    However, a year later the decision was taken by the local authority to move Stephen and place him with another foster family, due to how close he was living to his birth family and the risk this posed. The impact for everyone was potentially devastating.

    Our Advocate worked with Stephen, fiercely championed his rights and highlighted the impact of such a move to the local authority. After a very lengthy and emotionally charged process – which involved gaining the support of the Children’s Commissioner for England – the local authority apologised for their actions and agreed that Stephen would not be moved.  They then agreed to support the foster family with a house relocation to reduce any future risks and to keep Stephen and his new family together. 

    Stephen continues to thrive and is happy and settled thanks to the support of his tenacious Advocate.

    To make a donation to help others like Stephen, please donate via our Christmas Campaign page here or visit our just giving page here

    Read the full story of how we supported Stephen here

  2. Winner of the Outstanding Advocate Award 2023

    Leave a Comment

    Our awesome Independent Advocate, Pauline, has won the award for Outstanding Advocate at this year’s National Advocacy Awards. 

    Below is the nomination for the award (written by Leanne Hignett, our Services Director) which gives you an insight into the support that was given by Pauline to Milly.

    You can watch the video of Pauline’s nomination here

    I am thrilled to nominate Pauline for this award in recognition of her unwavering dedication, fearless passion, and steadfast commitment to advocacy since 2007. If I had to pick one (of many) scenarios in which to highlight Pauline’s ability to overcome adversity to make a real difference to another person’s life, it would be in the case of Milly.

    Pauline supported Milly on an advocacy journey like no other, beginning as her community advocate over 10 years ago before going on to support with a range of statutory advocacy approaches, many of which Pauline delivered simultaneously.

    It was strongly suspected that Milly had high functioning autism and, having spent most of her life in the care of her mother, her passing meant that Milly sadly found herself living alone in the decommissioned council flat they had once shared. Milly desperately wanted support and was articulate when contacting other agencies however, her diagnosis of agoraphobia meant she would not leave her home and would rarely let others in. This led health and social care services to dismiss Milly’s calls for help, as they simply felt she was choosing not to engage.

    Pauline saw beyond this, recognising that Milly’s conditions were likely having an impact on her executive functioning. Milly began sharing with Pauline and her GP that she was experiencing heavy bleeding and pain. Pauline recognised that the way other professionals were dismissing Milly meant that she was going a prolonged amount of time without investigation or treatment. Pauline tenaciously battled with other agencies to urge them to adapt their standard ways of working to ensure Milly’s situation was escalated. Pauline also shared Milly’s communication needs, using this to promote the increased engagement professionals could have with Milly if they altered their approach. Pauline’s tenacity eventually resulted in Milly’s admission to hospital and, following a series of tests, Milly was sadly diagnosed with cervical cancer.

    Milly’s expressed wishes were conflicting with her views and hopes for the future. Despite stating she did not want to die, Milly refused to consider any treatment for her cancer. Pauline pressed for a specialist to assess Milly’s capacity, someone who would consider her complex communication style. Pauline managed to do this by advocating the views Milly had shared herself, relaying a statement Milly made that,

    “My brain doesn’t always work – it’s like I am working with only half a brain. I misunderstand things. I get things wrong, and I need someone to help me make the right decisions.”

    As a result, a specialist assessment was commissioned and Milly was found to lack capacity regarding the decision to have treatment for her cancer. Unfortunately, the time that had elapsed meant that there was no longer an option to pursue treatment. Pauline began supporting Milly to advocate for where she wanted to spend her final weeks and eventually Milly moved to a hospice by the seaside she had always loved to visit as a child. The hospice were immensely grateful for the support Pauline provided during the transition, as this enabled them to provide greater person-centred care to Milly in her final weeks.”

    “Pauline provided amazing support for one of our patients who was admitted for end-of-life care. From the very moment the patient was admitted Pauline was actively seeking out ways to work with us and support the patient. Pauline had known the patient for many years, and we found it invaluable that she knew how to best communicate with her and what her preferences were. The patient told us how much Pauline had done for her, how much she trusted her and wanted her to be fully involved in supporting her with her decisions and wishes.  Pauline’s involvement helped the team here to fulfil some of the patients end of life wishes which was so important, she provided a great deal of emotional and psychological support, and even after the patient died, Pauline was advocating for her wishes to be upheld. Pauline was pivotal to the care this patient received and her experiences at the end of her life, she was amazing.”

    Unfortunately, where a local authority arranges a public funeral, it does so at minimal expense. This meant that despite Milly’s dying wish to be buried in her hometown, a decision was made for a non-attendance cremation with no service. This was unacceptable to Pauline, who took it upon herself to advocate for Milly’s wishes after her passing. Pauline tenaciously challenged the council’s decision, going as far as to make a FOI request to enquire under what circumstances the council utilised its power to make discretionary decisions about public funerals. Pauline’s challenge did not go unnoticed, and Milly received a beautiful service and burial, which her advocate and other professionals devotedly attended.

    Following her death, Milly’s story was heard by the national safeguarding group of NHS England. Both Pauline and the remainder of the MDT were nominated and subsequently won an NHS Safeguarding Star Award. However, knowing Milly’s views on the matter and not wanting to jeopardise her independence, Pauline decided to decline the award. Though I have no doubt she deserved the recognition.”

    Some of the additional feedback given for Pauline and her support of Milly …

    Here at Advocacy Focus we are so proud to have had 3 of our advocates be chosen as winners over the years for this highly regarded award.

  3. Advocacy Focus wins Mental Health Safety Improvement Award at the HSJ Patient Safety Awards

    Leave a Comment

    Advocacy Focus is thrilled to share the news that our Advocacy for Autistic People in Mental Health Inpatient Settings pilot won the Mental Health Safety Improvement Award at this year’s HSJ Patient Safety Awards. Awards which recognise safety, cultures and positive experiences in patient care.

    The event celebrates hard-working teams and people across the UK, who, facing staff shortages and cuts due to rising financial costs, still go above and beyond to deliver a high level of patient care and provide safe settings for people.

    A record-breaking 516 entries were received with 206 organisations, projects and people making it to the final shortlist, after two rounds of rigorous judging.

    The Awards were the highlight of HSJ’s annual two-day Patient Safety Congress where delegates took part in open and honest discussions around the current reality faced by patients in terms of their safety.

    Health Editor of the Sunday Times, Shaun Lintern who Chaired the HSJ Patient Safety Congress said;

    “As in previous years, the HSJ Patient Safety Awards ceremony formed a key part of our 2023 Congress and it’s always such an honour to be a position to congratulate all of the winners, which this year includes Advocacy Focus who scooped ‘top spot’ in the category of Mental Health Safety Improvement.

    The award winning pilot involved working with autistic inpatients across Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCFT) hospitals. The aim was to gather people’s views, wishes and experiences about their care and treatment and their experience of advocacy services. This feedback was to help shape inpatient services and meet the needs of autistic people.  Feedback that would help all services involved improve and effectively support people to have better outcomes.

    Advocacy Focus felt privileged to work with and amplify the voices of people in inpatient settings and promote change to better meet their own unique needs and  experiences. We provided advocacy to a group of people who would not ordinarily have such support, and to have that work recognised, was an incredible cause for celebration for all the team involved.

    Our Advocacy Manager, Ellie Bradley, that led on the pilot said:  “We’re absolutely thrilled to have won this award for our Advocacy for Autistic People in Mental Health Inpatient Settings pilot project. The pilot was set up to help bridge the gap in the Mental Health Act and provide advocacy support to autistic informal patients. This work took important steps towards ensuring that people’s wishes and views were heard and respected. Supporting this often overlooked group of people to be aware of their rights and support them to have their needs listened to and met, will essentially go some way to improving both their safety and long term outcomes.”

  4. Advocacy Focus successfully resecure the Lancashire Advocacy Hub contract.

    Comments Off on Advocacy Focus successfully resecure the Lancashire Advocacy Hub contract.

    We are delighted to announce that we have successfully re-secured the Lancashire Advocacy Hub contract. The service will re-launch on the 1st of August 2023 and will run for the next five years. Our team are delighted to be continuing to support people in Lancashire with their health and social care advocacy needs.

    Advocacy Focus will provide support to people over the age of 16 with issues or problems faced surrounding health or social care. We will be providing non statutory and statutory advocacy services consisting of
    – Care Act Advocacy,
    – Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy,
    – Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards- Paid RPR,
    – Independent Mental Health Advocacy,
    – Complaints Advocacy,
    – Community Advocacy and more

    Why is Advocacy important?
    For some people, it can feel like decisions are being made about them, without them, but Advocacy Focus will be there to make sure that important decisions are being made with the person. Advocacy helps people to understand their rights, put forward their views and wishes, and explore the different options that are open to them.Our team of Advocates will help put the power back into the hands of the person, promote their voice when they feel unheard, and help them to understand their situation. People often don’t know what advocacy is until they really need it.As part of our commitment to Lancashire, we also promised to offer wider benefits via our Community Focus project, where we will be providing advocacy support to people with a wide range of issues not just health and social care, such as housing issues, benefits problems, and assist in accessing education, training, and employment.

    Our Chief Executive Office, Justine Forster, has this to say about resecuring the Lancashire advocacy provision contract

    “We’ve been Looking After Lancashire for over a decade from our head office in Accrington. Our team live and work in our Lancashire communities and are tenacious when it comes to helping people to get the health and social care outcomes they are looking for. We care about our County and the people in it, so we are looking forward to working with any organisations that share the same vision as ours, to provide advocacy for all and to make sure that people are seen, heard and listened to when it comes to making big decisions in their lives. We are your Lancashire provider, and we will be working in partnership to help people to live the lives they want – and choose – to live.”



    Advocacy Focus is thrilled to share the news that our Advocacy for Autistic People in Mental Health Inpatient Settings pilot has been shortlisted for Mental Health Safety Improvement Award and Patient Safety Pilot Project of the Year at this year’s HSJ Patient Safety Awards which recognises safety, culture and positive experience in patient care, celebrating its worthy finalists on a national scale.

    The HSJ Patient Safety Awards acknowledges the hard-working teams and individuals across the UK who are continually striving to deliver improved patient care.

    A record-breaking 515 entries were received for the HSJ Patient Safety Awards 2023, with 209 organisations, projects and individuals making it to the final shortlist. The high volume – and exceptional quality – of applications is once again reflecting the dedication and commitment to patient care within the UK’s healthcare networks.

    Of the 24 categories, three are new for 2023, representing some of the recent initiatives and current focus areas within the NHS. These comprise the award for staff wellbeing initiative of the year; safety improvement through technology award; and urgent and emergency care safety initiative of the year

    The judging panel was made up of a diverse range of highly influential and respected figures within the healthcare community.

    Following the thorough judging process to date, Advocacy Focus was shortlisted, ahead of the official awards ceremony to be held later this year in Manchester (September 18th).  The Awards are a highlight of the HSJ’s annual 2-day Patient Safety Congress (taking place on 18 & 19 September), where delegates working at the forefront of safety, quality and clinical excellence will come together to join in with open and honest discussions about the current reality of safety.

    At this first stage of judging, the shortlist was set against three clear criteria; clinical and specialist excellence; enacting organisation-wide change and service/system innovation.

    Our pilot aimed to bridge the gap in the Mental Health Act and provide advocacy support to autistic informal patients ensuring their wishes and views were heard and respected. Supporting a potentially more vulnerable group of people to be aware of their rights and support them to be heard. Additionally, we have been engaging with autistic inpatients across Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCFT) hospitals. The aim of this engagement has been to gather the views, wishes and experiences of people across the trust surrounding their care and treatment and their experience of advocacy. These views have been collected with the vision of this shaping how inpatient services meet the needs of autistic people using their services and how effective advocacy services are.

    It is incredibly exciting to have the pilot work we have done be shortlisted for two HSJ Patient Safety Awards. We have been privileged enough to amplify the voices of people in inpatient services and promote change to better meet their needs based on their own unique experiences. Providing advocacy to autistic informal people who would ordinarily not have independent support and have that work recognised is an incredible achievement for all our team who were involved.

    Ellie Bradley

    SJ editor Alastair McLellan, adds; “As always, it’s a pleasure at this stage of our lengthy judging process, to be able to offer my congratulations to Advocacy Focus, as the shortlisted finalists are revealed for this years’ HSJ Patient Safety Awards.

    “Every one of the projects, Trusts, teams and individuals who entered this year have truly demonstrated their skills in setting – and delivering – the highest of standards in healthcare excellence, presenting our venerable panel of judges with some difficult decisions.

    “I’m looking forward to welcoming our finalists to the awards ceremony in September, where we’ll have a fantastic opportunity to come together and celebrate some really impressive achievements, whilst sharing experiences, best practice and learning from our colleagues working in a diverse range of roles across the healthcare sector.”

    The full list of finalists for the 2023 HSJ Patient Safety Awards can be found at

    Winners will be announced during the awards ceremony at Manchester Central, on September 18th 2023.

  6. Wellbeing starts with our people

    Comments Off on Wellbeing starts with our people

    Our charity’s core focus is to support people going through health and social care processes. We don’t deal with widgets or products. Our business is people. People that are going through some difficult and upsetting things.  That’s why wellbeing and a safe workplace environment is a key focus of ours.  Our team can’t help and support others if they are not well themselves.  Or are struggling at different times in their lives. So wellbeing starts with our people.

    We began our wellbeing journey in 2014. We looked at ‘normalising the conversation.’  Letting our team turn up as their whole selves, however they were feeling, without fear of being judged. After all we are an advocacy charity, so being non-judgmental is central to all we do. But change, even of the good kind, is still change and things didn’t happen overnight. However, it worked, because we were fully committed to putting wellbeing at the heart of our people offer.  It was too important not to, failure was not an option. We started with little things at first, bitesize sessions on topics such as stress, ‘time to talk’ days and random acts of kindness, like an early finish workday. 

    We set up a Wellbeing Team who were there to support their colleagues when needed, but also planned activities for our  team meetings.  Origami one time, a pop quiz the next.  Little steps towards a culture that cared about its people. The Wellbeing Team then developed and rolled out ‘healthy self’ toolkits for both our team and the wider community.  Because wellbeing isn’t something that should be contained or kept secret.  It should ripple beyond the walls of any organisation and benefit family, friends, communities. So that is what we did.  We went into colleges, walked around Accrington town centre with signs around our necks asking people to talk to us about how they were feeling.  And they did that in their droves. Because people want to feel something, anything.  They want to feel connected and be a part of something.  They want to be seen, heard and listened to.

    Today we have a safe and positive workplace. We have people that can turn up with anxiety, depression or struggling with their menopause symptoms and know someone will listen to them. We have birthday days off, one wellbeing hour every week, fully flexible working and extra ‘life leave’ for special occasions such as weddings or moving house. We have a wellbeing room in our head office in Accrington that the team took ownership of. Our people can go in there to read, rest, relax and even have a power nap if they are feeling tired. A workfree zone just for them.  We go on regular wellbeing walks – dogs included – and we celebrate success together at team meetings or work parties.  Because we are successful.  Our charity has grown beyond its Lancashire borders into Salford, St Helens, Trafford and the wider North West.  Because wellbeing is not just the right thing to do, it reaps huge rewards when it comes to a productive, happy workforce that get their difficult job done and deliver best practice advocacy.

    Wellbeing isn’t complex.  It isn’t something to overthink.  It is simply being human and allowing your people to be human too.  It helped us weather the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis.  Our team, although they have their own personal challenges, are looked after and valued.  That cannot be understated.  Here’s to wellbeing and to being human first, employer second.

  7. Demystifying the 39D IMCA

    Comments Off on Demystifying the 39D IMCA

    by Leanne Barber

    It’s Mental Capacity Act Week of Action, and we want to shine the light on one of our vital advocacy services, that is often a lifeline to family and friends of a loved one who is Deprived of their Liberty in a hospital or care home. I want to talk about a specific advocacy role known as a 39d IMCA (Independent Mental Capacity Advocate). A 39d IMCA is available when a standard authorisation (a formal document setting out a person’s care arrangements) is in place to deprive them of their liberty. This means they are subject to a DoLS (the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards). The person will also have an unpaid relevant person’s representative (RPR). This is normally a family member or a friend, and both the family member or friend and the person being deprived of their liberty are entitled to the support of a 39d IMCA. 

    A key function of a 39d IMCA is to support the person being deprived of their liberty and the RPR to understand their RPR role and the person’s rights. The RPR must be confident in exercising their rights. A 39d IMCA is expected to take reasonable steps to help the relevant person and the relevant person’s representative. This can include helping them to: understand the legal terms of the deprivation of liberty, the assessments which are required, and how to exercise the person’s rights if they object to the deprivation of liberty, or elements of it (these are referred to as restrictions). 

    Family and friends undertaking the role of RPR can often become confused, overwhelmed, and unsure if they are doing the “right thing”, as an RPR you need to be confident to address issues affecting the person who is deprived of their liberty. That’s often where we come in. A 39D IMCA can support the RPR and help them build the confidence to advocate for their loved one. It can be challenging for an RPR if a loved one is unhappy or unsettled in a care home that they themselves may have picked and agreed to them moving there.  

    As an RPR it’s important that you can exercise the loved ones Article 5 (4) right to challenge their detention. This can often conflict with the RPR’s personal values and opinions. A 39D IMCA can support the RPR to overcome their personal obstacles and help with starting the challenge process.

    As a service we regularly collect feedback and I wanted to share with you some recent experiences of people we have supported in their role as RPR as a 39D IMCA.

    “I had a long, detailed, and informative chat with Advocacy Focus with regard to my role as a Relevant Persons Representative (RPR) for a person who is subject to a DOLS (Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards). Whilst it was decided that at present, I do not require support from the Advocacy service, it was good to know that support in the future would be available if required. From this conversation, I gained some useful knowledge about my rights as an RPR that I was previously unaware of. Thank you.” 

    “I recently had contact with Advocacy Focus in regards to the RPR position for a relative who is subject to Dols. This person was appointed to my relative’s case and contacted me to discuss. I found this lady to be such a wonderful person to speak to, very attentive, and made me feel so much more at ease about the whole situation. I can’t thank her enough. The whole experience was great from start to finish. Nothing was too much trouble, any questions I had were answered in depth and helped me and my family a great deal. Highly recommended!” 

    “They have ‘gone beyond’ in supporting us through an extremely difficult time in our lives. Whilst the decision we now face is extremely difficult, at the very least our mum will have her wish and have the chance to come home.” 

    If you need any help and support with a family or friend who is Deprived of their Liberty, contact us on 0300 323 0965 and our team will do their upmost to provide the assistance you need.  

  8. A day in the life of a Children’s Advocate.

    Comments Off on A day in the life of a Children’s Advocate.

    9am – Check & respond to any emails/texts and voicemails. Look at “To do list” for today (I love a “To do list” and couldn’t survive without one!)

    10am – I support a young person at an Initial Child Protection Conference. I meet up with the young person 15 mins before the meeting starts. I speak to the young person about where they want to sit and who they would like to sit next to and talk through their wishes and feelings that we prepared during a previous visit and decide if the young person wants to read them out. The young person tells me that they would prefer that I read them out in the meeting to start with. I also support the young person with talking to the Chair of the conference before it starts. The young person is made subject to a child protection plan. After the conference, I speak to the young person about what happens next and arrange to visit them again before their first core group.

    11.30 – Preparation for visit this afternoon. The Social Worker has said that the young person can find talking to new professionals daunting and nerve racking. The young person loves dinosaurs though. I brush up on knowledge of dinosaurs so that I can start a conversation about them. I also take a call from a young person who wants me to visit them this week. Book time in for tomorrow to see them.

    12pm Some lunch

    12.30 – Check emails/voicemails/texts. Email from Complaints Team with a Stage One response. I try to contact the young person to discuss this with them and leave a message. I will try and call them back after 5pm.

    I also make some follow up calls with social workers, an Independent Reviewing Officer and school pastoral staff.

    1pm Travel to next visit.

    1.30pm Initial visit to a new young person. I begin by chatting about their day, school and dinosaurs. This seems to help the young person open up about some issues that they are experiencing at the moment. I discuss options with the young person and agree actions. I have learnt a lot about dinosaurs today

    3pm Residential drop-in session. I speak to the young people who live there. One young person raises with me that they would like an increase in pocket money. I support the young person to discuss together with staff team. Staff team agree to speak to the residential manager to discuss further.

    4.30 Back home, I follow up on actions agreed with the young people I have seen today. I take a call from the residential manager who agrees to increase the young person’s pocket money. I speak to the young person to let them know and they say that they are happy that they will be getting a rise in their pocket money.

    5pm – Calls to young people and update case notes from today’s visits. I have a visit to a Care Experienced Young Adult tomorrow – look up legislation, guidance and advice around housing issues in preparation for the visit. Send emails/texts to confirm visits tomorrow. Write my very important and essential “To do list” for tomorrow!

  9. An Advocacy Focus volunteer talks about their experience

    Comments Off on An Advocacy Focus volunteer talks about their experience

    Why did I come to volunteer at Advocacy Focus?

    I came to Advocacy Focus because I was looking to expand my experience of  mental health services. Volunteering with Advocacy Focus was a great opportunity because it allowed me to experience inpatient mental health services from a different perspective, one that is independent from the NHS. From the outset, staff from Advocacy Focus, were incredibly supportive. They made sure that I got the most out of my volunteering experience. Advocacy Focus recognised that I was in the middle of my master’s degreeand were incredibly flexible and understanding so that I could fit volunteering around my studies. 

    How does volunteering help you with your studies or your own personal journey? 

    Volunteering on the ward has given me a chance to be in an inpatient setting, which are  often hard to access. It has broadened my knowledge of mental health experiences of older adults and the Mental Capacity Act. This knowledge and experience has been helpful for my studies , my part-time role as a Mental Health Support Worker, and will continue to be helpful for the rest of my career. 

    The role is centred around talking to the people we work with , listening to them, and finding out what they want and need. Within any service it is  vital that professionals recognise the views of the people they work with.  It has been refreshing to be able to focus solely on this – as that’s what advocacy is about! 

    What would you say to other people thinking of volunteering? 

    I think if you’re looking to broaden your knowledge and experience within mental health, this is a great opportunity – whether you have worked in mental health or not. 

  10. An Arachnophobic’s blog to living in a world full of the creepy creatures

    Comments Off on An Arachnophobic’s blog to living in a world full of the creepy creatures

    Hi, my name is Becci and I am an arachnophobic.

    For as long as I can remember I have lived my life in deep fear of the nasty little eight-legged creatures, I have no idea where it came from, which is partly why therapy can be so tricky. I have no memory there being something from childhood that triggered this. In fact, as a child, I would happily watch the cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web and sing Incy Wincy Spider without it causing any distress. My parents haven’t passed this phobia down to me. My mum doesn’t like spiders, but she is nowhere near to what you would call “phobia level”. It also didn’t develop because I’d heard some horrible information about spiders on TV, or in a book, that caused me to fear for my health and wellbeing. It has just always been there. 

    I am, what you would call, the “on paper” stereotype of a person with a spider phobia, even my self-help book says so. I bought this self-help book over a decade ago when I was feeling very brave and thought “I’m going to beat this”. Over a decade later and I still haven’t read past chapter two, which pretty much makes me a massive failure as far as engaging in self-help goes. Anyway, chapter one of the book defines traits of an animal/ insect phobia as follows:

    • Sudden and severe panic and fear when faced with the animalTICK! As soon as I see a spider anywhere near me, I suddenly feel a sudden and sharp jolt of bad butterflies in my stomach and chest, followed by a feeling of becoming very hot and dizzy and losing control of all logic and reason. Depending on how close and surprising the spider is, the event can also result in: shaking, heart palpitations, sweating, crying, hyperventilating, talking to myself and shouting at those around me.
    • Avoiding the feared animal- TICK! As much as I can, I will avoid all risk of meeting a spider. Have I jumped out of a moving vehicle because I have seen a spider? Yes. Have I refused to sit on a park bench in fear of one of those little red spiders touching me? Yes. Have I spent hundreds of pounds trying to spider proof my house? Yes. Will I ever go on holiday to Australia? Absolutely not!
    • Focusing attention on the source of the threat- TICK! As soon as I walk into a room I will scan all walls and floors for spiders. I’ve been late for work because there’s been a spider in my hallway, and I have been unable to leave until someone has removed it from my house. Every night when I get into bed, I will pull back my covers and pillows and check there are no spiders in my bed. If there is a spider in the room you can be sure I will find it, even if no one else has spotted it.

    So what is the impact of living with arachnophobia?

    The reality is that it affects not only me, but also those close to me. I’ve left my then-boyfriend’s (now-husband’s), house in the early hours of the morning because he was unable to find and remove a spider that had crawled up the bedsheets. I’ve woken him up countless times during the night while I check the bed for spiders.

    My poor parents don’t get away from this either; when I lived with them, I once made them drive home from Liverpool in the middle of the night, mid-way through watching The Killers, because there was a large spider in the living room. I’ve also walked into their house in such a state from being faced with a spider, that they thought I’d been attacked. I can’t count how many times I’ve shouted at my husband and my parents for not reacting quickly enough in coming to my aid; or when they’ve tried to catch one, and the little critter has gotten away. I feel very sorry for my poor, poor family for having to put up with my behaviour.

    They’ve told me countless times that I should seek professional help to combat my phobia. The annoying thing for me is that when not directly faced with my fear, I understand that it’s completely irrational and I will often beat myself up that I should stop being a coward. I know that spiders can’t really harm me, and I am aware that they are probably more scared of me than I am of them. I am hopeful that one day I will finally break free from the grasp of those eight legs that are currently holding onto me.

    I am very lucky in the sense that my close family do take my phobia seriously and they are willing to help me. However, often this is not the case with others: it’s common to witness people tutting, rolling their eyes, and staring at me if I’m in public and become distressed by a spider. Many people still won’t even consider that a phobia is a mental health condition (FYI, it falls under anxiety disorder for you sceptics). It’s unfortunate, but it’s true that society still doesn’t take phobias all that seriously, especially animal or insect phobias. The general response I get when I reveal that I have arachnophobia is for people to laugh and say, “oh yeah, I don’t like spiders either”, which is one of the most unhelpful things a person can say to someone with a phobia, as it dismisses the severity of what us phobics go through and experience as part of everyday life.

    How do you help someone with an animal/ insect phobia you ask? I suppose that depends on the person. For me, it helps to remove the trigger, or move me away from the trigger. After this reassure me, listen to me if I want to talk about the incident; if I don’t then give me something else to focus on, try to make me laugh or play me a song that is uplifting or makes me happy. If you know someone living with a phobia, have a conversation with them. Take some interest and ask them what works for them, then do whatever that is if they become triggered.

    I suppose what I wanted from this blog was to educate everyone that there is a big difference between a dislike and a phobia, and that it isn’t something that should be taken lightly. So next time you see somebody in distress or having a panic attack in response to their trigger, instead of mocking the person, be a human being and help them!

Back to Top