Welcome to Positive Notions
Hello, I’m James Wooldridge. I established Positive Notions to provide motivational speaking and mental health training services with a focus on inspiring positive action.
“Very engaging speaker who shared some fascinating experiences and insights.”
In the mid-eighties the outlook for people diagnosed with schizophrenia was bleak. The word recovery was never mentioned let alone understood. Since this shattering experience, I’ve dedicated my life to proving wrong those professionals who told my parents I would never work, hold down a relationship, live in my own home or ever be free from medication.
About Positive Notions
The idea for Positive Notions came from my belief that the hard-won experiences of re-building my life had value, would benefit those who provide mental health services and those who themselves have faced challenges to their mental wellbeing.
A notion comes before a thought and I believe by taking a positive and optimistic approach to life, those notions are more likely to turn into positive thoughts and positive action.
I live in beautiful North Devon with my wonderful wife Lesley and our Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Ella. Walking in the woods and riding my classic motorbike are two of my greatest pleasures and I am eternally grateful to all those who have provided opportunities for me to share my story as this too has greatly contributed to my personal recovery.
Read more about James
Imagine the following… You’re nineteen years old and a successful officer cadet at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. You’ve spent two years preparing for this at an Army sixth-form college, having passed 4 A levels and have even spent time as an acting second lieutenant.
Without warning your life suddenly takes a turn for the worse. You begin to ‘lose the plot’. The next thing you know you’re locked in the guardroom awaiting your family who are coming to take you home. Eight hours later and having been deprived of food and water, they arrive. Your mother is appalled. In her words you’re ‘more animal than human’. The journey home is a complete nightmare. Your mind is hallucinating, the car is wired, the radio is inside your head, forwards becomes reverse, passing cars contain colleagues, officers, family and friends.
Forty eight hours later and now you’re in big trouble. Unable to cope, your mother has handed you over to the authorities and home becomes a psychiatric ward and you later discover it’s grim interior was once home for those in isolation. You’re fit and strong so to help you ‘rest’ the dosages of medication are upped to maximum levels. Now the side effects kick in. You’re constantly dribbling, your eyes involuntarily roll back in their sockets, you react to sunlight, your hands shake uncontrollably leaving you unable to feed yourself, your writing is illegible, your speech so slurred you can’t be understood and your bowels turn to water or leave you trying to pass bricks.
Some friends visit and leave in tears. In your disturbed mind you believe the army has selected you for a special mission. You’re testing the effectiveness of a new neurological weapon that’s top secret and once you’ve beaten the system into which you’ve been placed, you’ll be taken back to Sandhurst, presented with the Queen’s Sword and instantly commissioned.
How wrong you are. The army has dumped you. You’ve failed. Now get on with what’s left of your life. Once allowed home you try to build a future if only you could manage to get up off the sofa. The medication’s being reduced, the side-effects are just about bearable and you work for a couple of seasons as a hotel porter. Next you’re offered a better job, confidence grows and then you decide to apply to the Fire Service. Five medicals over eighteen months, a letter to the Home Office and you’re accepted. You spend eight years as a fireman and are awarded a Chief Fire Officer’s commendation as part of a crew who performed a life-saving rescue.
Eventually, you put your experiences to use and talk to others about life with a mental illness. After a while, even the painful times can be talked about without tears. You talk about the times you believed you were the Messiah, even the next King of England. You talk about the escapes from hospital, the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t. You talk about the time the bomb squad wanted to blow up your car, the many times you were pinned down and forcibly injected and the time you spent in a police cell only to be escorted to hospital by an old army college friend who now is a police sergeant…..this of course fits the delusion perfectly…..the mission hasn’t stopped!
Well, this all happened to me… For the last twenty years I’ve lived with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and it’s been a rocky, yet in many ways, inspiring path. Along the way I’ve met some incredibly brave people, lost a few good friends who couldn’t take the pain any longer, and yet somehow, I’ve survived.
In 2005 I embarked on a new career. I left my job in sales to go self-employed as a freelance mental health trainer/speaker/motivator. Using the experience I’ve gained and the talents I’ve acquired I hope to take forward a message that is real and relevant to today’s society. A message that is honest, inspirational and not short of humour. ‘What happened to James’ a series on Radio Devon won a Mental Health Media award in 2003.
“Excellent and kept his audience captivated.”
The daisy is a symbol for Recovery
While I train in a number of mental health approaches, I specialise in Recovery. Recovery is about building a meaningful and satisfying life, as defined by the person themselves, whether or not there are ongoing symptoms or challenges. Recovery moves away from a focus on illness and symptoms to looking at health, strengths and wellness. Hope is central to recovery and can be enhanced by people discovering how they can have more active control over their lives and by seeing how others have found a way forward. You can read more about recovery here, on the Recovery Devon website.
“It has given me a great insight as to how my patients could strive towards their recovery/quest.”
I have experience of both sides of mental health services and bring this holistic view to my training. With Recovery increasing in importance, I offer ways in which it can be understood and embedded as part of existing services – to add to the range of tools available for supporting people with mental health issues. Training can be given to individuals or large teams, from introducing Recovery to working with managers to improve current practice and policies.
James has proved a really supportive colleague to everyone within the training team. His presentations are peppered with humour, coupled with the kind of serious messages about his experiences living with a diagnosis, that make audiences sit up and think as well as laugh and smile. His candour and willingness to engage in question and answer sessions adds enormously to the learning outcomes of the various audiences we’ve presented to, from medical students to trainee psychiatrists. Time and again, In initial feedback from participants, they identify James’ contribution as the best thing about the session – almost exclusively.
Jo Loughran – Head of Mental Health Promotion – Rethink
Thank you for yesterday. I think it was a delightful day and I certainly know from the feedback I received that people were really appreciative of the content of the day. Also the amount of work you put in. People felt they got a lot from it and certainly reading through the evaluation sheets I hope that, like me, you picked up just how much people did gain from yesterday’s workshop. So a huge ‘thank you’, I think it was an excellent day and I liked the relaxed and yet fun/serious tone that you were able to put onto it.
Gail Golding of Brent User Group
James Wooldridge has been one of the most influential trainers that HUBB has engaged. He has worked with us on stigma and discrimination issues, but his main forte is recovery work. As someone who has experienced mental distress, he has the ability to communicate well with both service users and people who work in health and social care. His authentic approach influences the most fixed opinions, and his easy manner promotes fruitful discussions.
His sense of humour keeps training sessions both alive and grounded. He is one of the most approachable people we have met. James has helped HUBB to host a major recovery workshop in our area, and has followed up that work with collaborative training sessions directly to teams. He is always thorough in the preparation phase of any training, and is imaginative with the training materials he uses. James has also researched his subjects well, and leaves the audience with useful references for follow-up. He has created bespoke reference folders for teams to allow the recovery work to continue long after the training.
Jenny Gray, HUBB Director
“An important topic that is pivotal to delivering mental health care.”
I’ve spoken at several conferences but also at smaller functions, to groups and service users for local and national agencies. The examples here are just a small selection. Whatever size your organisation or event I’m happy to talk about what I can offer.
James attended one of our weekly CPD sessions at St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton in April this year and was a breath of fresh air. He spoke candidly about his experiences within a mental health setting, telling snippets about his life story and not holding back. James had great reactions from those who attended his talk. The audience was a varied one, including Physios, Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Social Workers and they all came out with a positive attitude about Hope and Recovery.
Lucy – Research Administrator – St Andrews Northampton
James has delivered training to a significant number of Pluss Employees who are engaged in supporting people with disabilities and long term health issues to gain and sustain work. We consider James to be a highly effective trainer with the ability to use his skills to meet the needs of those being trained.
James subsequently spoke at our Conference with great clarity about the impact of experience of mental distress on people’s lives, the importance of adopting recovery oriented principles in supporting people and the importance of challenging stigma and discrimination in employment.
James is a charismatic speaker and our post conference feedback reflected this with extremely high ratings for both the content and the delivery of his speech. One person said “James was amazing” and a significant number have asked for James to speak again. Pluss has no hesitation in recommending James as both a trainer and a speaker. His messages are powerful.
Manchester – Recovery and Beyond Conference
Just to say a huge thanks to you, your contribution was in my view a key positive – lots of good feedback.
Nick Dixon, Conference Organiser
‘James Wooldridge was inspirational’ Anonymous delegates feedback
Dublin Recovery Conference
James, your individual contribution towards the success of the day is greatly appreciated and valued. The feedback received to date from delegates has been very positive…the presentations were spot on.
Brid Clarke, CEO Irish Mental Health Commission
Mr Wooldridge’s talk was inspiring particularly for its humour and acceptance of his unique journey, humour is often missing in our working day as often sadness dominates. Hope was very much a part of my experience today.
Hearing James Wooldridge tell his story and Dr Glenn Roberts explaining Mental Health in such an easy manner has given me hope as a mother and carer for the future, Thank You.
“Very engaging and interesting presentation. Really good to be able to hear such a positive story of recovery. Thanks!”
I have co-authored and contributed to a wide range of publications around recovery. In my work with Recovery Devon I also contribute to the business plan, the development of policies and our informational and educative literature.
If you would like to discuss work, or collaborate on materials simply use the form below to get in touch.
Forensic settings are probably among the most diffcult places to think of applying recovery principles. People in forensic services are doubly stigmatised with repeated or prolonged contact with the criminal justice system in addition to mental health problems.
This paper considers methods for implementing the principles of Recovery in such circumstances. Click the image to download.
Part of a series of papers, this article looks at the issues of choice when detained in compulsory psychiatric care or similar settings.
How best might recovery be implemented when the issue of choice and control is in question? Is it even possible to act on recovery principles if the patient doesn’t have control? This paper argues that recovery is still possible and opens up the debate.
Click the image to download the paper.