To celebrate the NHS’ 72nd birthday on Sunday 5 July, we spoke to Dylan Degman and asked him to share this NHS journey.
Dylan first came into contact with our Trust as a service user. Since then Dylan has represented the Trust as a volunteer and public governor; gaining full-time employment in the NHS over the last year.
My name is Dylan Degman. I am 28 years of age and I live on the outskirts of Wakefield. I work for Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust as a phlebotomist. I am a volunteer and public governor for South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and I am also a Sergeant in the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. Being who I am now has not been without hardships. I have spent nearly all my life being a victim of abuse. I have spent the past seven years of my life in recovery from severe mental health issues which affected my life, and prevented me from becoming in my eyes; a person. Now I live with my conditions and control them using skills I have learned from using the NHS. I am the happiest I have ever been.
Can you tell us about your ‘NHS journey’?
Service user – 2014: From being quite young I had gone through a lot of trauma in my life. Eventually in 2014 I had a mental breakdown and went into psychosis. This was the beginning of my use of NHS services and decided it was time to change my life. However, without the support of the family I have now, this probably would have not been as achievable, or I would be in recovery still to this day.
Whilst using NHS services I began to experience many forms of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and in early 2015 was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Controlling or even understanding why you feel the way you do is never easy. On top of that, the lower you feel the more you want to give up. There were a few times where I had given up and made several attempts on my own life. Naturally, the mental health services had to act in order to support me during this time. I want to thank the people who work in the mental health sector of the NHS, especially South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SWYPFT).
Mental health is not like physical health where you can see what is wrong. After many types of workshops and therapies I began to understand more about my mental health, and thanks to the NHS, I began to learn more about how to help myself to get better.
Volunteer – 2018:
After getting to a healthy state, I decided that it was time to attempt to become one with society again. However, I was too afraid to go back to work due to anxiety issues. I was afraid that I would not manage and would be made to do things because it was ‘my job’. The problem being that if I was not well or couldn’t handle it, then I had no choice.
Thank goodness for volunteering. I saw a post online that advertised volunteering opportunities in the NHS at SWYPFT. I began to ponder the implications of this and wondered what it would be like. I then took the plunge and I applied.
I was then asked to an informal discussion, where I was expecting an interview type scenario where I would be judged based on my achievements – which were few considering my past. But when I sat down, I was greeted by a wonderful woman – head of volunteering services; Jane Milner. She sat me down and asked me what I think I could do to help and where I felt I could fit in. The kindness that was shown to me that day was amazing and really helped me to relax.
Following this, I then got a position as a light touch volunteer at the Trust. I was and still am honoured to do this. Volunteering helped me become more comfortable in meeting new people and performing regular daily tasks. It provided a basis to be able to contribute to society once again. The best thing about this was that I had been given the chance to help those people who were at the place I had been years before.
I have now learned many new things and have built confidence and the drive to aspire to be something greater than the life that had been chosen for me. I want to thank Jane and volunteer services administrator, Ann Campbell, for their moral and emotional support when I began volunteering.
NHS employee – 2019: After building up my new mental state of mind, I knew it was time to go back into the workplace. What better way to do that than to give back to the service that helped me; as well as giving me the opportunity to provide help to others, whilst providing me with the means to build a good life for myself.
So I became a phlebotomist, a skill which I had learned years before out of curiosity and part of my recovery. I thought here we go, back to the slums of employment where you go to work just to work. Not in the NHS!
I was amazed by the kindness and support of the organisation and its staff. The support you get from the NHS is second to none. The social environment makes the hospital a great place to work. As well as this, there are still so many ways to take part in professional development. I take so much pride in providing services to patients and it has given me a sense of fulfilment. I am now currently studying an honours degree in health sciences hoping to progress myself in the NHS for years to come.
Public governor – 2020: After a short time in employment at a different Trust, I saw an invitation to be nominated as a public governor for the Trust that got me through my mental health; SWYPFT.
I put myself forward and was elected as a public governor for Wakefield. This was a pinnacle moment in my professional life and I was honoured to take on the position. I now, along with other governors, provide another service for the NHS on behalf of its people, by ensuring that the NHS services are the best they can be. Being a governor gives me a lot of confidence and knowledge of the NHS, and I now have more of an understanding of the functions behind decisions and how hard it is to provide the service the NHS does to its people all over the country.
I am now a member of the NHS family and will continue to provide services to the public whilst ensuring I look after myself too; with the support of those services and the fellow members of my NHS family.
What have you learnt during your time using, volunteering and working with the NHS?
As a service user, I learned different types of skills and therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and PTSD. This provided me with the ability to manage my mental health once I no longer used the services. As a volunteer I gained new professional skills and knowledge. A couple of examples would be becoming a cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling practitioner as well as the secretary for the Trust’s LGBT+ staff network. In my career I learn new things every day. New situations bring new challenges and I am taught the skills needed in order to provide the best service possible to our patients.
How does your experience of using NHS services affect your role as a volunteer, public governor and NHS employee?
I believe that my experience has provided me with what I need in order to become a better person. It has also helped to challenge my own beliefs about healthcare and anxieties in seeking healthcare. I now have the drive and confidence to seek aid when and wherever I need it.
What would you say to someone who wanted to volunteer or work in the NHS?
My first words would be: “you won’t regret it”. Going into the NHS is not just a job, it’s a career. It’s about learning and helping others. Whether you are going into the NHS for a career, for new skills or to make new friends, the NHS has it all and you will be part of an organisation that is centred around people and putting them first.
What does the future look like for you?
I am hoping to progress in the NHS once I pass my degree. In the meantime, I will continue to support others as a volunteer, governor and employee of the NHS. With everything I have learned, and continue to learn, it has given me the opportunity to begin writing a book as well as launching a new mental health service that is centred on lived experience. So I will use what I have learned to push myself forward and go into the future knowing that I have made a difference to people’s lives, just like people have done for me.