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Jessica Carmody... About Me

Firstly, thanks for visiting this page to learn more about me. The basics are: I'm a British woman living and working in London, managing my mental health full time. My favourite things are: love, friendship, kindness, equality and crisps. It would be great to hear more about you (you, know, you, dear reader, reading this) too, so please share your own links to your blogs and information about yourself in the comments section or contact form.

I grew up in Nottingham with my mum, dad, brother Joe and our dog Mattie. I went to school there, was a member of the local youth theatre group, sang in my local church choir and enjoyed many fun weekends hanging out by myself as although my parents lived right in the centre of town, none of my friends did, so I developed a love of the solo-cinema visit, shopping solo and walking around my immediate neighbourhood listening to a (very small collection of) songs on my Discman.

In more fun times, I learned that playing badminton late at night whilst singing Cher songs with my best friend Julia was one of the most fun ways to spend an evening, that shopping with a paltry allowance was better than no shopping at all, and developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local charity shops. I had bad asthma and also had pretty terrible mental health, so spent a good part of my teens in and out of hospital for short stages and out of school for long stages because I just couldn't face it.

I'm really fortunate to have had great support throughout my life, even if it took work on my part and definitely on the part of others to stick around when I wasn't exactly the most fun person to spend time with. I've already mentioned my family, and would add to that my extended family, who've been really supportive and caring in the last year and a half or so since I became totally 'open' about my mental health problems. I also want to mention my wonderful husband Mat who combines comedy with clumsiness and a whole lot of love and compassion to be my perfect companion in life. I love him a lot. I went to university and - despite a year off - made it through to the end with help from fantastic friends I'm proud to call friends today and again, a great support network within my college and in the university. Since leaving university I've also been fortunate to have kept wonderful school friends all along the way who've shared their successes and strife with me as I have mine, and the new friends I've made and kept too. As I said earlier, I really value love and friendship, and consider myself very lucky to have the support of all the people I'm able to call friends.

I now know that I've suffered from depression and anxiety for well over twenty years - I may not always have known it by that name, but it was always there. Things are still wavering - I have bad days almost every week, but I'm still hanging on in there with a lot of help and support from medical professionals, my family and friends, and with support from my work colleagues and the great network of people I've met through being more open and honest about my own mental health. 

I originally created Laptop On Tour to capture my experiences working away from home - a long Ghana working for Care USA on a project to create a mentoring programme for programme managers. I grew up with the evolution of emails and the internet, and was once criticised by a 'so-called' friend for sending out a round-robin email once in a while. Fair enough, I thought. No more round robins. Instead in 2011 when I went out to Ghana I created this blog so that people could choose whether to read about my travels or travails. No one had to click, so it helped me to feel freer about writing. Now that I've become an open advocate for mental health support and an end to its stigma, I am now passionately committed to spreading the message that mental health is something everybody has and that people with mental health conditions deserve understanding and support rather than fear and stigma. I use my blog to capture my weekly (personal) experiences of mental health and whatever I'm experienced that week. My hope is that if I help just one person through telling the truth about my own experiences it might help someone else. And, while I hope that happens, I also find it helpful for myself to write about what is going on in my head. It focuses my (sometime) wandering mind to think about my week and reflect on what has passed, and writing gives me real pleasure, and a sense of accomplishment when I finally hit 'publish'!
way away from home - as I took on a project to spend three months in

I currently work at KPMG in the KPMG Learning Academy. I specialise in all aspects of people and change, particularly learning, with nearly ten years of experience working with organisations from different industries and in different countries, for example UK, USA, India, Ghana, and Ethiopia. People are my passion and I have been proud to have helped organisations successfully change towards growth and increased productivity, and even prouder to have made many friends among my clients along the way.

Outside this role I advocate for non-profit causes, particularly for raising understanding of mental health, both at KPMG and personally. I am a media volunteer for mental health charities Mind and Time To Change and am a spokesperson to help people to better understand it. In the last year I've appeared on BBC One, BBC London radio, in Buzzfeed, Metro and Grazia (for example) and tweet and blog for Mind... and one here of course!
And I also work to support better mental health at KPMG. I am very active in our Be Mindful network which promotes caring for ourselves and others with a specific focus on mental health in our city environment - one that can be quite a challenge with tight deadlines, pressurised expectations we put on ourselves and are asked to meet and at times long working hours. We have a rich network of colleagues in the network, but knowing that one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point, and that every single one of us is facing those challenges, we need to look after ourselves and one another. In the next year after several of our well-attended KPMG events have increased our membership, I'm excited to work alongside the fantastic management committee, our keen network supporters, and as many employees as possible to engage people with taking care of our health - both mentally and physically.

My vision for the future is...something that I would never have considered thinking about before last year when I was nominated for and awarded a listing as 1/30 top female city workers championing diversity by Brummell Magazine and then highly commended for mental health advocacy and openness in the Women of the Future Awards 2015. 
It was such an honour to be recognised, but yes, I did have to think of something, and what I came up with was this:
My ambition is to be seen as the leading female business advocate for mental health in the UK. Within KPMG I want to treble current membership of the Be Mindful support network over the next two years. More broadly I want to take on a role advising employers on mental health support while continuing to expand the KPMG learning academy to serve over 3 million digital learning users.

I don't think I would ever have felt comfortable posting something like this, or even saying this out loud before, because overt ambition was covertly frowned upon (or sniggered or talked about behind backs) in the school environment I grew up in. But at some point we all have to grow up, and I for one am ignoring any hate whisperers in favour of promoting great mental health for everyone. We can do this, together, and end the stigma around mental health, leading to a happier and healthy life for many people.
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