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ZeZe’s journey from secure psychiatric support to an empowered, passionate<br />
and award winning advocate for mental health.

ZeZe’s journey from secure psychiatric support to an empowered, passionate
and award winning advocate for mental health.

This is ZeZe's Story...

Before arriving at Precious Homes, Zaynab spent time in eight different secure psychiatric settings. Her diagnoses of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and Autism, combined with depression, psychosis and attachment issues lead to a need for 3:1 care due to suicidal thoughts, psychosis and self-harm. Today, with the support of her team at Precious Homes, she is using her experience to shape mental health provision in Birmingham.

Expert by Experience

Zaynab (aka ZeZe) has made amazing progress, channeling her inner resilience to share her experience for the benefit of others. Today, she works with co-production steering groups as an Expert by Experience to affect change in the mental health system as well as advising on youth mental health research in universities.

In recongition of her commitment to creating positive change, ZeZe’s support team at Precious Homes, the supported living accommodation where she currently lives in Birmingham, nominated for a Diana Award. This humanitarian award is designed to highlight the amazing work of the most inspirational young people from across the UK and around the world. We’re extremely proud that ZeZe is officially a Diana Award winner for 2020.

Background and key achievements

ZeZe’s passion and determination to empower change from within has seen her get involvedin a myriad of projects. She is currently an ‘Expert by Experience’ steering group member for Think4Brum, Birmingham’s mental health partnership for 0-25-year-olds, where she fulfills the role of co-chair and research lead; is part of the Youth Advisory Group at The Institute for Mental Health; is a Young Ambassador for the Autistic Society; advises on course content at the Birmingham City University and the University of Birmingham; is part of the co-production group at Mind, the mental health charity and is a service user representative for Golden Lane Housing, a social housing landlord for people with a learning disability.

In her role as an Expert by Experience at Think4Brum /Forward Thinking Birmingham, ZeZe has been involved with designing a Mental Health Journal/Passport – a record/tool which is intended to travel with the individual, providing medical and care professionals with a succinct overview of their history. For someone with severe mental health issues, upheavals can often be difficult and challenging, the passport is intended to reduce the anxiety and distress associated with having to repeat a sensitive story multiple times.

Shaping mental health guidance for the muslim community

ZeZe’s work is very much about using her own experiences to improve things for others. To this end, ZeZe is working with the team at Think4Brum to explore the possibility of creating guidance materials on mental health specifically aimed at the muslim community. With around 30% of the population in Birmingham identifying as Muslim, ZeZe has identified a gap in the proviion from Forward Thinking Birmingham and is working with the team to fill it based on her own experiences of stigma and isolation.

ZeZe’s journey

Previously, ZeZe required 3:1 round the clock care to protect herself and others, had to be tube fed and made multiple and regular attempts on her own life. Today, she lives in supported living accommodation, where she is known to have inspired those around her, most recently by writing a book about her experiences.

By committing to ongoing involvement with steering committees, expert by experience groups, advisory panels and guest lecturing spots ZeZe puts herself in the position of having to recount her painful story time and again. Her willingness to do this, with honesty, bravery and a large dose of good humour and wit, is testament to the strength of her commitment to a cause which she passionately and wholeheartedly believes in.

The road ahead

ZeZe has made fantastic progress during a short period. However, as she’ll readily admit, she has a long way to go and requires ongoing support. All of the activities that ZeZe takes part in are opportunities that she actively seeks out and engages with of her own accord. Crucially, ZeZe’s support network, including the Precious Homes team, helps to ensure that the opportunities she engages with are sustainable and support her recovery rather than impinge on it.

As part of this journey, ZeZe has accessed formal education, attending college/school to get her GCSEs in an incredibly short space of time, is a confident and articulate public speaker and a published author.

In her own words

“I’ve been in two acute wards, two psychiatric intensive care units and a (forensic) low secure, all from 5 admissions over 4 years of my adolescence. I’ve been moved across the country from Staffordshire to Sheffield to South Wales and back to Birmingham. I’ve been from 2:1 and making serious attempts on my life in a secure unit to being psychotic and needing restraint.

“But now, here I am. I am a mental health ambassador with different organisations, an expert by experience, an advisor at two universities, training junior doctors on mental health, a research lead for a mental health improvement group and, more recently, I have become co- chair. More importantly, I am the most well I have been in seven years. Look at me now. I am immensely proud. I have come a long way in my recovery and have a long way to go, but I have built a life worth living.”

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