Joanna Jones: Overcoming personal struggles to help others
“Everyone should be who they are, without comparing themselves to other people: they should be the best that they can be.” 2022 Work and Education Leader, Joanna Jones.
Joanna works for the NHS Community Learning Disability Health Team in Cardiff, helping to make healthcare more accessible for people with autism and learning disabilities. Having faced lots of challenges in her life, Joanna is now proud to support others and to make things easier for people when they need it most.
For over a year now, Joanna has worked with the NHS, creating easy read documents, as well as videos and voiceovers. Recognising that somebody who has autism was best placed to make a difference for others with autism and learning disabilities, Joanna decided to play a part in creating a more accessible NHS.
And the work makes a huge difference: although medical leaflets are very important, their format and language can mean that they’re inaccessible to some. The easy read pamphlets and forms that Joanna helps to produce make it much simpler for people to access the information that they really need.
Joanna is proud of all her contributions to the NHS, but what she is most proud of is her journey. Having faced personal struggles throughout her life, including low mental health, she has needed to overcome a lot of challenges to reach where she is now.
She wants them to know that they should be who they are, without comparing themselves to other people, and that they should be the best that they can be.
Through self-reflection and perseverance, Joanna has been able to find a job that she loves and bring positivity to the lives of others. Now, she’s honoured to have her achievements recognised by the Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List and to prove through her story that anyone with a disability can get into the NHS.
To anybody else with autism or learning disabilities who is struggling with their mental health, Joanna wants to say that they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. She wants them to know that they should be who they are, without comparing themselves to other people, and that they should be the best that they can be.
Joanna believes that there are massive misconceptions out there about individuals with autism. For one, some people underestimate those with autism, incorrectly assuming that they are less capable or less empathetic than others. Joanna hopes that her professional success disproves this assumption: without being talented and intelligent, she couldn’t have achieved her role in the NHS, and her drive to help others shows profound empathy.
Joanna has also experienced misconceptions about how autism presents in different individuals. Not only can stereotypes be wholly inaccurate, but they can also make it harder for people to get diagnosed. Joanna, who was only diagnosed in her early thirties, says that the mental health centre which she attended didn’t recognise the signs of her autism.
Joanna always tries to stay positive, even when it isn’t easy. Although she sometimes feels overwhelmed by her thoughts, she does her best to keep cheerful. When, back in 2017, she found her mental health was particularly low, she made the brave step of leaving Wales and her home to embark on a residential course in England for eight and a half months.
Since that time, Joanna has tried to learn how to make good choices and be courageous, and she channels this positivity into helping others. In 2019, she completed the Cardiff Half-Marathon to raise money for Cardiff People First, an organisation run for and by people with learning disabilities, and from which she has been seconded to the NHS. Then, in 2021, she completed the Virtual London Marathon.
Joanna also loves to spread positivity through her writing, creating poems and stories which show that happiness can be found even in challenging times.
Have a look at one of Joanna’s poems:
I’m broken, I’m bashed, I’m bruised. I’m despairing, not caring any more. I’m going to crack, go splat, crash all over the floor.
I’m a bowl with fruit in me, if I crack and split, you’ll get a banana on the floor – a banana literally split. The banana will split it’s sides.
Oh dear, I’m on edge, I’m on the edge in a precarious position. With predictable precision I’m wobbling, waddling, wibbling, quibbling and wailing. Need to do some absailing off this table. I wanna be sturdy and stable. Not so long before I..! (Don’t say it! It’s inevitable).
All is quiet outside and inside this room, but youll need a broom soon.
Sigh – as predicted Ive cracked. I’m a bone china bowl, but now I’ll be fractured and broken, bashed and cracked. But then I remember as a peace enter my bowls veins. I may be nearly in pieces but I can be worth even more if and when I am in pieces. By the art of Kintsukuroi, “golden mend”. I’ll be mended with gold, connecting me together again. There’s hope for the soon to be cracks in my life. Kintsukuroi, I love you