Dr Zainib Khan of BBC One’s Race Across the World shares important message ahead of World Mental Health Day 2023 | News and Events

Dr Zainib Khan of BBC One’s Race Across the World shares important message ahead of World Mental Health Day 2023

Dr Zainib Khan is a Trainee Psychiatrist at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH). She took part in series three of BBC 1’s Race Across the World alongside her husband, which aired this year.

Ahead of World Mental Health Day 2023 (10 October), Dr Zainib shares what it’s like to work for a mental health inpatient unit, her own experience of a mental health diagnosis, what she learned from her experience on the show, and her advice to anyone struggling with their mental health.

Dr Zanib currently works at GMMH’s Lowry unit, part of the Trust’s adult forensic services, which is a low secure service for adult men who have usually been through the judicial system and need a period of rehabilitation for their mental health. She said:

“The excellent thing about the Lowry unit is that it’s a great example of what psychiatric care should be like everywhere.

“It incorporates psychiatrists, who support with medication, psychologists, who are doing more of the deep psychological work through therapy, and you’ve also got occupational therapists, pharmacists, social workers and nursing staff.

“Everybody is working together, and a very important part of that team is the service user themselves. It’s a very collaborative approach, which really helps the service user to understand why they have come to be in this situation, and to progress so they can look forward to discharge and go back home.”

Dr Zainib knew she wanted to work in mental health early on into her medical training. She said:

“I decided that psychiatry was the speciality for me when I was in med school, which is quite early on.

“I did my psychiatry placement and I remember seeing the consultants and how compassionate and involved they were with their patients, and I just thought that’s the type of doctor I wanted to be. I wanted to really know my patients and to help them from a genuine place of concern.

“That was the main thing me, but another part of it was that I, like many other people, have personal experience of mental health issues.

“I have been diagnosed with a panic disorder, and this affected me very early on in life. I never really understood it, and I was always ashamed of what it was because I thought it was some weird anomaly that was wrong with me.

“But as I grew to understand that this is a medical condition that can be treated, managed, and controlled, I felt passionate about learning how not to feel so isolated and alone again. And not only for myself, but to be able to help other people to feel the same way, whatever it is that they’re going through.

“My advice to anyone considering a career in mental healthcare is that it is an immensely rewarding field to go into. You get to know your patients so well, and you get to know your clinical team so well, but it does require a level of emotional resilience, and a lot of self-reflection.

“Thinking back on my career, I don’t have any regrets of going into psychiatry. I laugh, I cry, I have fun, I feel joy - along with my colleagues and service users - and that’s something I don’t think I would have got from any other medical speciality.”

BBC One’s Race Across the World followed Dr Zanib and her husband over two months, as they travelled across Canada with a limited budget and resources, in a race against other pairs to the finish line. She speaks about why she applied to take part, and what she took away from the experience:

“I was a big fan of the show, ever since series one came out. But I was never brave enough to apply. And then COVID happened, and that really put things into perspective for what’s important in life; and that’s to do the things you really want to do and that you enjoy.

“So I thought I should at least apply, and see what the outcome is. The managers at GMMH were incredible. I was met with zero resistance – they just told me to go for it!

“As someone that has panic disorder and is very anxious in a lot of different situations, I found throwing myself into something like that very scary – not having phones, or contact with family or friends, and going off to travel the world.

“But I found out that I can actually do it. I’m pretty resilient, and I’m strong when I need to be, and that really echoes what I try and portray to others around me: that something can be scary, and it can look like it’s impossible, but until you try it, you won’t know, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with failing.”

In the run up to World Mental Health Day 2023, Dr Zainib also speaks about the challenges currently facing our society, and shares important advice to those who may be struggling:

“The biggest challenge I think people are facing right now is financial. With the cost of living crisis, people aren’t able to afford basic things like food or warmth.

“The uncertainty of jobs, and the uncertainty of housing; these are major components that feed into mental wellbeing and are having a detrimental effect on people. So it’s a really difficult time to keep on top of your mental health.

“I think because people are struggling with those things, sometimes they try to look at ways to escape that reality, and that can be through drugs and alcohol. It becomes a vicious cycle because these coping strategies are not effective or helpful in the long term.

“If you feel that you are struggling with your mental health, the most important thing that helped me was telling somebody. These things can make you feel so lonely, and can compound upon your mental health worsening; and it’s in sharing our problems that we feel we’re not so isolated.

“So speak to somebody, whether that’s a family member, a friend, or a colleague, because it will really help - that’s certainly what helped me.

“Society as a whole puts pressure on us to be very productive and be the best in what we do, in terms of exercise, what we eat, what our house looks like and what our job looks like.

“But it’s also so important to rest. If you’ve got a broken leg, you rest. If you’ve had a heart attack, you rest. And if you’re struggling with your mental health, you need to rest.

“It’s about putting yourself first, and making sure you’re eating and sleeping well, and taking that time to reset. Work will take care of itself, family obligations will take care of themselves, and the world will keep on turning.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, help is available. To find out about the support offered in Bolton, Salford, Trafford, Manchester or Wigan, visit: www.gmmh.nhs.uk, or speak with your GP. A 24/7 mental health crisis helpline is also available for those in Bolton, Salford, Trafford, Manchester or Wigan, day or night, 365 days a year, on 0800 953 0285.

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