'Everything I said was disregarded'

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KAY SHELDON was just 23 when she voluntarily admitted herself to hospital because of recurrent depression and a feeling she couldn't cope.

Although she trained and worked as an occupational therapist in the NHS, she was prevented from working for 10 years after being diagnosed with a mental health problem. Now 36, married, with a five-year-old daughter and living in East Anglia, she recalls her experience as "very frightening".

In hospital she received drugs that she said caused her to shake, made her agitated and did not help her condition. She was given a diagnosis of schizo-affective disorder, involving some symptoms of schizophrenia and some of depression.

After three weeks she discharged herself, but found her job had gone to someone else. Nine months later she was put on six months' probation, which she passed.

However, because of her refusal to take the drugs, a social worker and her family doctor sectioned her under the Mental Health Act. She was forcibly taken to hospital and detained several times, and was only released when she agreed to drug injections; drugs that, she said, made her feel suicidal. She lost her job and could not get another because of her history.

"I eventually stopped having the drug injections and just take the anti-depressants. This has led to a phenomenal improvement in my life," she said.

Ms Sheldon is now a writer and has just been employed as a Mental Health Act commissioner to advise others with mental health problems. "It has been a very frightening experience, and because I was labelled with a mental health problem, everything I said was disregarded," she said.