OU blog

Personal Blogs

Annie Storkey

The power of positive contact

Visible to anyone in the world
Pro-active motivational support is one of the grounding principles of my work as an Associate Lecturer and regular, continuous contact is one of the ways I do this. I send out weekly emails to my students to maintain contact and build relationships; the emails usually consist of the introducing the study aims of the week with appropriate guidance and pointers. I see this contact as a positive interaction with students to help motivate them but I have previously underestimated its positive impact on my own wellbeing.
I enjoy receiving replies to these emails from students as distance teaching can be just as isolating for the tutor as the student, and getting feedback from others is encouraging, whether the student is asking for support and guidance or just acknowledging your contact.
I am absolutely delighted when students ask about my mental health (I have bipolar disorder) as this signifies to me a world where barriers are breaking down, and disability is acknowledged as a part of identity, not a stigma or tragedy.
So my wish in the coming year is the building of positive, supportive relationships within the university setting, with openness and acceptance of difference.
Share post


New comment

Hello Annie,

I imagine you have probably read Kay Redfield Jameson's  An Unquiet Mind. Not only was she a sufferer from this awful illness but at the time of writing the above-mentioned book was considered  the leading expert in the field of research into this illness. 

Throughout this autobiographical work she stresses time and again the the value of the support she got from many sources close to her, both familial and professionally. Ironically, although she was prescribing lithium for her patients she was very reluctant to take it herself. Eventually she acknowledged that she had to do so and her life improved.

 Given her expertise in this field of research she once asked her psychiatrist to lower, very slightly, her medication. He was initially reluctant to do so but eventually agreed. This very slight lowering of her medication had an enormous positive effect on her mind. She saw things so much more clearly.

My reason for mentioning this last point is that it is obvious from the author's account of her illness that each sufferer appears to need specific individual assessment of the amount of this medication to be prescribed.

My opening line I realize seems ironic. Why am I writing this if I think you have already read the book?

Anyway, your postings are very interesting and energizing.

Best wishes,


Annie Storkey

New comment

Thanks Joseph. That was a very thoughtful reflection and I'm sorry I didn't reply at the time (Jan and Feb can be difficult times for those of us with bipolar disorder as we often have seasonal affective disorder as well). This year has been quite full on in the health and social care world and my blog much neglected.

I can relate to Jamison's experiences in that I was a health care professional when diagnosed with what was then called manic depression (I was a lecturer in nursing) and had my own ideas on managing my mental health. I went through a change of lifestyle and taught myself behavioural techniques for managing my mental health, and am very lucky to have a good support network. Not only are manic depressives individuals who need individual approaches but their needs will also change over time so assessment needs revisiting. I am high functioning and can live with the hypomania that comes with not being on lithium but would have no qualms about taking it again if necessary; I'm quite pragmatic.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply