'I don't feel a victim of my past' - Inspirational mum's mental health recovery sparks new NHS service

Mum-of-one Miranda Arieh knows more than most how debilitating mental health issues can be.

By Joanna Wardill
Saturday, 10th October 2020, 11:45 am

At 14, her mental health had deteriorated to such an extent that she was sectioned in a Leeds adolescent psychiatric unit for her own safety.

With a history of self-harm, running away from home as well as anxiety and depression, she was placed in the former High Royds Hospital in Menston for nine months before eventually being released into foster care.

But Miranda's story is not one of self-pity.

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Miranda Arieh, an NHS network mental health lead in Leeds. Picture: Tony Johnson

Hers is an inspirational tale of courage and recovery and one which sparked her burning desire to change the mental health system for the better, to help others facing similar struggles.

Now, having recently landed her "dream role" as a network mental health lead for the NHS in Leeds, Miranda hopes to be able to do just that - by designing her own recovery service for patients, drawing on her past experiences.

While acknowledging there is absolutely a place for medication when needed, she said she always felt "let down" by the traditional medical models of treatment.

"It wasn’t really recovery-focused at all. I felt it was more about managing symptoms than actually healing.

“In hospital, I was sedated when I got emotionally distressed rather than look at what issues were there.

“For me it felt like a revolving door system.

“I started to feel really fired up about implementing change myself."

Embarking on her own road to recovery, Miranda threw herself into reading and learning and eventually formed a holistic approach which she says has "self-compassion at its core" and is based on the fundamental belief that recovery is possible.

She became a walking advert for her method's benefits and now aged 36, and with a 13-year-old daughter, has completely turned her life around.

Miranda said: "My life was really challenging and I went through quite a lot of childhood trauma - both emotional and physical. There was a lot to work though.

"But I was never really taught [recovery] was possible throughout any of the treatment I ever got.

"And I know it is - because I [now] live in joy most days.

“And I come from a place of severe anxiety. Even going back seven or eight years, sometimes my anxiety was absolutely debilitating, with trauma resurfacing.

“But I chose to look at it all in a different way. I needed to do something about it. I started to take action and started to dedicate my life to my own development and helping my recovery.”

Miranda took on her NHS role in February, based at Bellbroke Surgery in Harehills, and her services are currently piloting in 11 GP practices across Burmantofts, Richmond Hill and Harehills.

A key factor in her recovery approach is group work which had to be temporarily pauses due to Covid-19, but is now back up and running.

She said: “It was really important to me to start forming groups as soon as possible and do it face-to-face - so people can be together and can share how they feeling.

"When you don’t share, you don’t grow. When you express it, it takes weight off us, if it’s in a space with compassion and kindness. And to say things you’re not normally able to say - you’re able to create a space where everyone supports each other. I just think there needs to be a hell of a lot more services like that.”

She says the pandemic has been a busy time for services like hers, with most patients citing it as a factor in their current mental health state.

“Most have experience of mental health problems but Covid has affected them. But I’ve also been seeing quite a lot of people who have never had mental health problems before and suddenly being thrown into a lockdown situation has had a massive impact on their mental health.”

Miranda says feedback she has been receiving on her therapeutic service so far has been promising.

“The outcomes have been really phenomenal. So far, 100 per cent of patients want to come back and do more courses.”

She added: “I’ve always dreamed of being in a role like this. I feel really absolutely thrilled with the opportunity to finally be able to share my own service and offer support.

“My job role is phenomenal but I feel it’s the tip of the iceberg and feel there is so much I want to do to support change for people and support them in their own personal healing journeys.”

And Miranda recognises that none of this would be possible if she had not lived through those dark days.

“I don’t feel a victim of my past at all. I’m grateful for all experience I have had. It’s given me a complete insight so I have a real passion and empathy for people going through this system.

“It’s supported me to create a model that I feel is really positive and works. I know I wouldn’t be able to do that if I hadn’t gone through what I have gone through.”

Miranda has ambitious plans to share her approach with more people - having launched a private service as well as training healthcare staff and through public speaking. She has also started writing a book about her life story and plans to start filming vlogs on her website.

She added: “In mental health service development we need more people in these roles who have lived experience. It’s something that no university degree or textbook can tell you. I would encourage anyone to use their story to be of service to others.”

For more information visit www.mirandaarieh.co.uk.

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Laura Collins