Awards mark a glittering end to amazing journey
A WOMAN who returned to work and set up her own business after overcoming the severe mental illness that had confined her to benefits for 25 years has spoken of her pride at being shortlisted for the People of the Year awards.
Louise Jessup, of Aldington, attended the RADAR event in London earlier this month as one of the 10 people with disabilities on the shortlist.
Although city banker Jonathan Naess was the overall winner Louise said: “Mental illness is too often a Cinderella problem. One that is sadly overlooked.”
Louise now works at Tesco and, with help from the Business Link’s Enterprise Gateway Service in South Kent, has launched creative textile company, Bumble Designs. Having used textile work as a release during her illness, she is hoping to turn her passion into a profitable business. Something she couldn’t have contemplated during her illness.
She explained: “My problems began within three years of starting work. I was a hospital physiotherapist but lost that career at the age of 25 and it looked as if I might never work again.
“For 25 years I was entirely reliant on benefits and at one point I was detained for six months under the Mental Health Act. The journey out has been quite miraculous.”
She puts the transformation down to a complete review of her treatment and history. With the right medication and counselling she was able to turn the corner and took an IT course at South Kent College and was named Dover Harbour Board Student of the Year for 2004/5.
Having started back in paid work on four hours a week at Tesco, Louise gradually upped her hours and took on more responsibility. Keen to use her love of textiles and her embroidery skills she signed up to take part in a project at the Enterprise Gateway. Called Go Ahead, it was tailored for women thinking of setting up a business.
She said :“We were taken through all the aspects of running your own business, while different workshops gave us excellent practical help.
“Go Ahead built my confidence and self-esteem to the point where I was able to launch Bumble Designs. It was a very positive project and all the women who took part, even those who chose to continue in their existing careers, benefited from the workshops.”
Louise now gives talks to businesses about employing people with a history of mental illness and supports the Kent Mindful Employer initiative, which encourages businesses to engage with the issues of stigma and discrimination and mental wellbeing.
She added: “I hope I can be a bit of an ambassador and inspire people to use the services available to them.”
Jason Martin, director of the Enterprise Gateway Service – South Kent, said: “Louise goes to show that with the right attitude and the right kind of help you can overcome anything. We’re very proud of everything she’s achieved.”
Louise’s designs can be found at www.bumbledesigns.net Further information about Kent Mindful Employer is available at www.ke ntmindfulemployer.net
For more information on Business Link services call 0845 600 9006.
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