Sue Wheatcroft interview potentially tricky words/phrases for English learners

Discharge someone-if you discharge someone from hospital you allow them to leave

Diagnosis-to identify someone as having an illness or a condition

Got at-feel that someone is potentially against you

Offended- in this context to have done something for which one can be put in prison

Arson- the criminal act of setting fire to property

Probation-release of prison under condition of good behaviour

Spell-in this context it means a period of time spent somewhere

Segregation- to be segregated is to be kept apart from

Uphill-if something is an uphill struggle it is difficult

Front line staff-someone who executes a task rather than plans it

Paying lip service to-saying you support something but not doing anything to actually help out

lead on-the person is normally ‘led on’ and does something or expects something as someone else has lied to them or makes promises they can’t keep

Sue Wheatcroft-campaigner for change an interview-Level B2

How do you feel that BPD contributed to you ending up in prison?

I truly believe that if I had received adequate treatment from the Community Mental Health Services (CMHS) I would not have gone to prison. It wasn’t the symptoms of BPD, as much how they were managed.

At the age of 14, I had been given a diagnosis of ‘inadequate personality’. This was in 1974, when such terms were the norm. I spent some time in a psychiatric ward and a special school but was then completely discharged as soon as I reached 16. I wasn’t told about my diagnosis and so spent years thinking I was just weird and that I should hide how I felt. I had quite severe attachment issues but was too embarrassed to discuss it with anyone. On one of my rare visits to the GP I became quite tearful and so was treated for depression which, I now know, I didn’t have. I struggled alone most of my life; alternating between over-sensitivity and anger; impulsive behaviour; negative thinking; and feelings of emptiness, until I finally asked for help at the age of 53. That led to my current diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), but also to the stigmatisation associated with it, that prevented me from getting any help.

I offended, partly, because I was desperate, frustrated and angry at the way I had been treated (or not) by the CMHS. Every time I think back to how I was spoken to, by the very people who are employed in a position to help people like me, I go through every emotion: sadness, frustration, anger, hate, suicide… My journey to prison is rather complex and involves domestic abuse, knife crime, arson, and the consequences of severe attachment. It also includes the part played by probation, the police, and a psychiatrist who I thought was treating me but turned out to be working with the police and was a witness against me. It is, perhaps, best saved for another time.

Why are there so many women with BPD in prison?

For those who have to rely on their local CMHS, there is still a huge amount of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding BPD among the front-line staff. We phone the crisis team in tears, begging for help. Invariably, we are asked if we intend to end our lives. If we say yes, they will phone the police. If the answer is no, then we don’t need their help and if anything changes, we are told that all they can do is to phone the police or advise us to phone 111. If we phone again, we are attention-seeking, and ignored.

Many people struggle to manage their emotions; to those with BPD this can be a massive understatement. The desperation felt can be unbearable, to the extent that around 70% attempt to take their own life at least once, and 10% succeed. The urge to do this can be immediate and sometimes, the feeling will not go away until they have done something extreme: screaming, self-harming, offending…

The lack of help from the CMHS is detrimental to the health of someone with BPD. However, what is likely to tip them over the edge into extreme behaviour, is the negative attitude towards them. Telling someone to bake a cake when all that person wants to do is to go to sleep and never wake up again, is both insensitive and potentially dangerous. We all understand that resources are short, but there is no excuse for a lack of compassion.

People with BPD do not always see the world as others do. In particular, they struggle to understand if they are liked or being ‘got at’ by others, including family and friends and others they are close to. This sometimes leads to a misunderstanding that is intensified by the person with BPD due to their lack of social skills, or ‘tools’. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) was developed specially to treat those with BPD, and other therapies have been successful in lessening the intensity of symptoms. However, resources are short and, where the treatment is available, it is not unusual to be told that ‘you are not ill enough, so don’t qualify’, or, ‘you are too ill to treat’.

Without treatment and understanding people with BPD feel lost, alone, helpless, neglected and insecure, afraid of being let down or abandoned. Unable to express their true feelings, they can come across as angry and aggressive. They may commit petty crimes but, without a true understanding of their condition, and within a culture of risk aversion, magistrates and judges often give them harsh sentences.

What was your experience of being in prison with BPD?

Most of my time in prison was spent either in Segregation or Healthcare. There was no attempt to try and understood my behaviour and I was seen largely as an attention-seeker. My spells in healthcare were usually after an episode of self-harming or attempting suicide. My stays in segregation, five months in total, were generally as a consequence of my in-cell graffiti. My way of coping was to draw and write on the cell walls. I desperately needed to get my feelings out, and no-one was willing to listen. Segregation wasn’t the answer and 23 hours a day alone in a cell can only exacerbate a mental health condition.

My one shining light in prison was the psychologist. I say ‘the’ psychologist because she was the only one there, although she was helped by three mental health nurses. She was kind to me, which meant more than you can imagine. She wanted to help me but, of course, she didn’t have the time. What she tried to do was to keep me out of segregation and, when this failed, she tried to make sure I was treated adequately. Unfortunately, this failed too, but I was grateful for her occasional appearance. It was more than I ever got in the community. My time in segregation is yet another story!

How much help, if any, is available to women in prison and does it change depending on the location?

Those who have two or more years left to serve on their sentence might be able to be transferred to one of the personality disorder units within the women’s estate. These are part of the Offender Personality Disorder (OPD) Pathway, which is co-commissioned and managed by NHS England and HMPPS, in response to the knowledge that approximately two-thirds of prisoners meet the criteria for at least one type of personality disorder. 

Outside of these units, there is a serious lack of training for prison and health staff in the symptoms of BPD. Those with less than two years left to serve are housed on regular wings and are too often, seen merely as troublemakers.  It is very often the case that an individual with BPD spends a longer time than normal locked in their cell. A common symptom of BPD is a fear of sudden endings, and relocating an individual into another cell, or even prison, without prior knowledge can be immensely traumatic and often results in a period of crisis.

For those lucky enough to be referred to the prison mental health in-reach services (known as In-Reach), there is inevitably a long waiting list and even then, treatments for personality disorders, outside the specific units, are difficult to source. With a lack of resources, the staff face an uphill struggle to cope with the number of prisoners with a personality disorder.  In addition, making a diagnosis whilst in custody can be unreliable because the individual is away from their usual environment. People very often act differently in prison; they may be putting on a brave face and suffering in silence, or they may become anti-social in order to survive.

How does the cost of keeping a woman with BPD in prison, compare to the cost of treating a woman in the community? 

There are no definitive statistics on the prevalence of BPD in the UK, although it is thought to affect between 1 and 2% of the population. The ratio of women to men having the condition is said to be 3:1, and it is, by far, the most common personality disorder among women, both in prison and the community. It is thought that around 20% of women in UK prisons have BPD which, at the time of writing, would be an estimated 650 women. Keeping someone in prison costs around £118 per day. By these figures, the daily cost to the taxpayer, to keep women with BPD in prison, is £76,700.

It is always going to be cheaper and more effective to put money into the community rather than in prison, but there needs to be a concerted effort to ensure that money reaches those with a personality disorder. Too often, it is aimed at those with ‘emotional difficulties’, which includes a range of mental health conditions. Consequently, those with BPD get left behind. Then, of course, there is the human cost. The negative impact on families and on children in particular, of putting women in prison, cannot be overstated.

What can be done to fight the stigma surrounding BPD? How much do BPD treatment services differ across the UK? 

The worst thing someone can hear when they need help is that nothing can be done.  Historically, people with personality disorders have been denied help from statutory services because their condition has been regarded as untreatable.  This belief is slowly changing because there are many people who are trying to fight the stigma. For me, it’s a matter of awareness and training, co-produced with those with lived experience. Frontline workers, delivery services and management should all be aware of why and how a personality disorder is developed, so that the appropriate therapies and services can be carried out with empathy, understanding and kindness.

As with most health services, there is a postcode lottery when it comes to finding effective and high-quality support. Some counties have dedicated personality disorder services, whilst other counties say they do but after delving into what they offer it is found that they are paying lip service. The remaining counties have neither the plans nor the desire to set up a dedicated service.

Do you have any other stories about women in prison with BPD and what they experienced? 

A lady who became one of my best friends in prison, and who I am still in contact with, received a life sentence for the murder of her boyfriend. From what she told me, there had been many signs of difficulties in regulating her emotions, long before that incident. But she didn’t get help, and two lives were ruined. And of course, there was the knock-on effect to their families and friends. She was eventually transferred to a secure hospital for treatment but is now back in prison.

Another woman had similar experiences to me in that she would often end up in segregation. She had severe attachment issues and one day she held a knife to the throat of a woman she believed had been ‘leading her on’. The matter was resolved after a few hours, but a few weeks later, she took her own life.

How have you attempted over the last few years to change the system? 

When I left prison, I set up the Derbyshire BPD Support Groups. The thought of others going through what I had just because they were alone with their condition, made me feel ill and I had to do something. That was four and a half years ago, and we now have members from all over the world taking part in our WhatsApp group and zoom calls. The best thing about it is that people know they are not alone; they are able to connect with others for support and advice.

As a person with lived experience of prison and mental health, I have written several articles and blogs trying to raise awareness of the consequences of not giving people adequate treatment, and the wider impact and expense, of sending women to prison for non-violent crimes. Within the Criminal Justice System, the Voluntary Sector and the NHS, I have been part of various focus groups, and I have presented at forums and conferences.

In my work with the Revolving Doors Agency (RDA), I have co-produced a Best Practice Guide for prisons, and a Pre-Release Skills Project for the women’s estate. I was also on the East Midland’s Prison Partnership Board. I have contributed to various national documents, including Lord Bradley’s Report, Ten Years On, as well as RETHINK’s Thinking Differently, a guide to NHS England’s new Mental Health Framework. These are just a few things I have done as a campaigner and activist, and I have much more to do.

Anything else you’d like to add.

Not all people with BPD will reach crisis point. Some learn to manage their emotions when relatively calm so that they do not reach that stage. It’s important to remember that most people in danger of reaching crisis point are not thinking straight and may not be able to get help for themselves. Yet, people need to be listened to and taken seriously. For those who can afford a private therapist, this can work quite well. It certainly saved me.

I would also like to add that, when talking about coping alone with my condition, I am referring to the lack of knowledge and treatment. I was lucky enough to spend over 36 years with my soulmate, Vicky, who sadly passed away just before Christmas. We struggled together but she supported me in ways that only a loved one can.

Many thanks to Sue Wheatcroft for the interview. If you’d like more information about her/are looking for resources to help you can visit:

Welcome to my website

Why I’ve not been writing blog posts

Hi, all. I’ve been swamped since the start of this year (I’ve also not been well), organizing/filming/editing a series that I hope will be accepted by Amazon. The series is about fitness. Due to this and a lack of space on my laptop, I am looking at doing all my interviews via sending questions to people via email, which is potentially more problematic as it is more forgettable than arranging a face-to-face meeting. However, hopefully I can get some replies back soonish.
Hopefully, I will have a new series of interviews out in the next few months with any luck. I will also update this blog with information about my forthcoming Amazon series. If the series isn’t accepted on Amazon, it will be uploaded onto YouTube and link to it.
To give people a flavour of what the series will include: It will be about fitness at different stages of life, with a few tips on working out and a few insights into some top people in the fitness industry.

Soviet cinema: an overview of two films

A break from the usual blog to do something entertainment based. I hope to get a series of interviews done in the next few months on one theme and publish them all together and write something regarding language points.

I got into soviet cinema when I was learning Russian, a fellow student in the Russian class described Soviet cinema as brilliantly weird, and there are several films in this category. In this blog, I am going to discuss two films. I will look at content, camera etc., concerning both movies. I will talk about the films with clips relating to what I discuss.

If you don’t want spoilers you might want to watch the films before reading the commentary. 

The first film is found here:

The second film is found here: 

The first movie is based on a classic of Russian literature which catalogues the transition of the old order dependent on birthright to a new communist society. The film is called the twelve chairs.

In the first clip (watch till the 10 min mark), we can make some observations; the camera on this scene is mainly focused on Bender, the focus on this character is evidence of where the power lies in this scene. Another thing of interest is that we are introduced to the priest figure in this scene who is supposed to be above material things; however we see that he is very interested in the story of the jewels in fact, one of the themes of the 12 chairs appears to be the hypocritical nature of religion embodied in the character of the priest. 

The second clip (watch till the 14 min mark) in this clip as in the clip above at a certain during the discussion with eachother one of the characters will turn to and involve the audience. This is called breaking the fourth wall. Breaking the fourth wall allows your audience to engage with the material slightly differently.

In the third clip at 17.26 we see more digs at religion. Watch the clip to 23mins mark. Also I feel the third clip embodies a rough and ready look which gives the film a ‘timeless’ feel; also if you look at the 18.09 and at 18.48 mark with the dodgy doors, the buildings have a feeling of being unreal, and I feel it gives more of surreal nature the film. More questioning of religion at 22.31 with a focus on the words есть ли бог (is there a god) on a poster in the street. 

From the start of the fourth clip to 1 hr 35 mins, we see the message of communism with its rejection of hierarchy; in this clip, the old ruling classes are seen as not being able to fend for themselves, and the commoner is the hero of the piece.

From the start of the fifth clip to 1 hr 51 mins, I love the use of mixed media and see it enhancing the absurdity of the situation that Bender describes.

From the start of the sixth clip to 2 hrs 20 mins, the screen is spinning this has a disorientating impact on the viewer. It mirrors the disorientation experienced by the priest character as he descends into madness.

The last clip shows how fruitless one of the main characters was in carrying out their mission and thus the futility of greed. The very parts show images related to the twelves chairs; therefore, the film is quite meta and references itself. It also shows people from the film, but the film was set in the 1970s and not in 1920s Russia, where the film starts. The film seems quite moral with the overarching message that it doesn’t pay to be greedy.

The next film Moscow doesn’t believe in tears, this film won the academy award for best foreign-language film in 1981. It is said that Ronald Regan watched this film 8 times to understand Russian culture better.

 “Moscow puts no faith in tears” or “Moscow is unmoved by tears“) is a Russian proverb meaning “don’t complain, solve your problems by yourself”.

The film follows three comrades who have different attitudes to approaching and getting through life. One of the women is a hard-working woman who ends up raising up the ranks; she is tough, and she raises a child on her own. The child is born as the result of a one-night stand, which to some degree, I feel, raises questions of consent. Indeed, Russian feminists flip the script included Moscow doesn’t believe in tears in one of their critics of underlying messages to women from Russian cinema. You can see the meme here:

I think it’s interesting that the film seems to gloss over whether there was appropriate consent. I feel that there is more of a focus on the fact that he disappears and doesn’t provide for child and that the woman has to struggle independently. It feels that there is a focus on the woman not being complete despite her career without a man in her life.

The clip below from the start to 1 hr 6 mins implies that a woman needs a man to make the decisions in her life and that she should acknowledge this fact.

The other characters are women who choose wisely when finding a husband and live happily ever after. A woman who wants the best choice and potentially chooses a man for the wrong reasons ends up in an unhappy relationship. I feel that the other paths are there to illustrate the ‘importance of a good man in one’s life.’

Having said that, I love the character development and seeing the relationship between the three comrades. The film is also interesting as it’s a product of its time and reminds us of attitudes at that point in Russia. It also has great Russian music.


I’ve not posted any interviews in November as I am putting together interviews around a theme and plan to put them all up at once. Instead of the usual interview for December I will have some light entertainment. Happy holidays all…

An interview with a photographer words and phrases

let me shadow him-when you shadow someone in a work context, you learn about what they do.

NGOs-non governmental organisations.

downhill trajectory – the situation gets worse.

homeless- in this case its the homeless people on the street who don’t have housing (a roof over their head).

rapport- in this case, develop a relationship where both parties (people communicating) understand each other’s feelings and ideas.

awkward position- in this case, a position which is uncomfortable and can only be maintained for a short period of time.

news gathering team-a team that gathers information to get the news out to the public.

it gives them a sort of dignity-dignity is about being worthy of respect and being treated ethically. I think we should treat everyone with dignity, and it should be reliant on their position within society.

don’t really get traumatised- to be in a state of shock/mental distress due to a disturbing experience.

drop in the ocean- only a very, very small amount.

raise the profile- get more attention in terms of a specific issue.

moved to do something- to cause something to feel an emotion and then to take action.

envisage-to think up something which doesn’t yet exist

mentor-someone who supports someone who has less experience in a certain area.

one of the beneficiaries-someone who benefits from a project.

refugees- people fleeing conflict or persecution.

it is tragic photographic this people-if something is tragic it brings distress or sorrow.

most prestigious photographic gallery-a photographic gallery which inspires respect and admiration. A place that is seen as having a high status in society.

The recruitment process/work (level B2)

I am hoping this is my last reflective blog for a while. I will hopefully be going back to interview people in a month or so. I am looking to temp, so I can have the time to work on blogging and videoing and develop skills that will allow me to pursue a career path with a content development focus.

I have a few more thoughts concerning the recruitment process and the nature of work. The last permanent job I applied for before looking into making temping work viable was a job that had a straightforward application form. As I am sure you’re aware, with most jobs, you have a form that asks you for the exact date that you worked to and from for a specific organisation. There are two problems with asking for to and from dates:

1) does anyone remember the exact day that they started working somewhere!

2) it makes it harder for certain people to get back into the work place;

for example women who’ve taken time out to have children, people with criminal records, anyone with a sketchy work history because they have some kind of neurodiverse condition and/or people with physical health issues.

The form I had to fill out didn’t ask for any job history details; the only questions the potential employer asked were about demonstrating certain skill sets. This approach is excellent as there is then no prejudice on the employer’s part about work gaps or the type of work you’ve done. I’ve heard that some people look down on candidates with a lot of volunteer experience. They wonder why the candidate has never found anyone who wants to pay for their time and effort; volunteering thus devalues the job applicant. However, I’ve also heard that employers love people who volunteer, so I am in two minds about this.

However, with an application form that just relied on the candidate to answer questions relating to the job, the candidate is judged less on their work history and more on what they potentially bring to the role, which is good.

Blog frequency (B1/B2 level)

I will continue this blog but will only blog once a month as I am putting my energy into searching for part-time work. I have a role that ends in August, so I need to concentrate on the job search. A few thoughts re the job search process, I’ve had a few more interviews since the interview/trial day. One of the things that all the recent interviewers have done was to send the questions in advance, which makes sense as a strategy: why bother saving them to the interview the process is nerve-wracking enough, and if you have the appropriate experience, then you have the relevant experience it doesn’t matter when you know what the questions are.

For one of the days, I even got sent the task in advance. Having some knowledge of what you are going to encounter makes a stressful situation less stressful. Here’s hoping more companies start thinking like this.

Rachel is interviewed (the reason why I am not blogging till July) (B1/B2)

I had an interview part way through May, tbh it was more of an informal chat than an interview. I got through the informal chat and am now preparing for a trial day. So there are a few things that were interesting in terms of the recruitment process:

Firstly the job was aimed at neurodiverse people. Employers aren’t that open to taking on people from neurodiverse backgrounds (especially those on the Autistic spectrum). So it’s good to have employers that champion neurodiversity. 

Secondly, it was an informal chat and not an interview, which is good for those on the spectrum. People on the spectrum tend to do poorly at interviews due to the following:

  • nerves-anxiety is a big issue for a lot of Autistic folks
  • our condition makes our work history a bit shaky
  •  some people can have a problem with taking things too literally (not an issue in my case) 
  • problems with knowing what the interviewer is looking for when they ask a particular question. 

Interviews aren’t the best form of recruitment for candidates in general; they are about as much use as tossing a coin. As interviews fail wrt choosing the right candidate, they are a waste of resources. 

Thirdly instead of drilling you at an interview, they have a trial day to assess your suitability which seems fairer.

The trial day is in June, so I am taking June off to ensure that I am as prepared as possible. 

So the final thing: if I get the job, I will still blog, but it will be once a month. See you in July, and I’ll update you then!

Useful English phrases: 10 mins to end Stunt man

They have a good body of work behind them-they have many years of experience in this field. This phrase is used for people in arts/people who write books/reports.

…where the principal actors aren’t required-a principal actor can be anyone with a speaking role on camera; however, it will depend on the nature of the production as to who counts as a principal actor.

…it doesn’t quite take the same toll on your body-something that takes a toll on your body ‘stresses’ the body and, over time, can damage muscle, joints etc.

CGI: computer generated imagery-computer generated effects in TV/film.

….doesn’t go into shards-piece of broken glass that typically has sharp edges.