[Skip to content]

Change colour Grey on white Black on yellow
Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
Better Together

Five Minutes With - A Mental Health Co-Production Lead

Published: 13/02/2023
Hi Jazz! Let’s kickstart our chat by you telling us about your role at BSMHFT

I've been in post for just over a year now, employed my BSMHFT but working across the whole Birmingham and Solihull system across the NHS, third sector and local authorities, on the Community Mental Health Transformation Programme.

My role is to ensure the lived experience voice of those with mental illness, their carers and families is a ‘golden thread’ that runs throughout the programme and is at the core of all the changes to community mental health services that we are making, by working co-productively with our Experts by Experience, in joint decision-making, systems change and ensuring that those systems are co-designed with and for people with lived experience. I’ll also be involved in work to support a lived experience workforce across the system, to ensure people with lived experience of mental illness are actively recruited, supported and offered a range of opportunities across the system.

As Co-Chair of the LGBTQ+ Staff Network for BSMHFT I co-facilitate meetings and am involved in amplifying the voice of LGBTQ+ staff members, holding the Trust to account in creating a safe, inclusive and equitable workplace.

Have there ever been any stand out moments in your career that you take great pride in? 

I've had a varied career since graduating from university, including an ill-fated six-month stint as a graduate management trainee in the corporate world of insurance that I absolutely hated!

I've worked previously in the NHS within sexual health, public health and have had various stints of working within the third sector, including at mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, as well as being a freelance trainer. 

Jazz Janagle

I've been fortunate to have had some fantastic roles, within some great services and with some amazing colleagues; I've learned so much, and continue to learn and develop, and I'm so grateful for the opportunities I've had. I’m especially grateful for my current role that feels like a culmination of both my professional and personal lived experience - I genuinely love my job. 

My greatest achievement in my career is that I've managed to continue in my career and that I'm able to work. There have been some really difficult challenges where I had extended sick leave from some previous jobs and consequently lost some jobs due to mental illness and being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and later, fibromyalgia. I was once told by one of my occupational health doctors that I may never be able to work again due to illness, and that was beyond frightening. Surviving those ill health periods and also coming back fighting when I had some horrible experiences in some roles is a massive achievement and I'm really proud of that.

This month is LGBTQ+ History Month, as Co-Chair of our LGBTQ+ Staff Network, how important is it that events like this are shared for the community? 

It's important to acknowledge the struggles, the trauma, the power, the impact and the achievements made by our LGBTQ+ individuals and communities over the years. Our history as queer (my preferred term now) people dates back centuries. Our history matters to us as queer people today, but also matters to all of us, as that history is a part of us, and a part of society as we see, feel and experience it now. We’re now counted in the census for the first time, and it’s 20 years since Section 28 was finally, and thankfully, repealed.

Visibility, inclusivity and representation matters, and having things like LGBTQ+ History Month allows both us as queer communities to be recognised and valued, and increases awareness and learning for everyone. But every month is LGBTQ+ History Month, like every month is South Asian Heritage Month, and Black History Month etc. We don't just 'come out' in February! 

For this LGBTQ+ History Month the Staff Network has supported with a Trust-wide campaign around LGBTQ+ visibility and inclusivity, firmly committing to a safe and inclusive workplace and a ‘No Hate Zone’. We’ve also created a specific survey for LGBTQ+ identifying members of staff to complete, so we can gather some real-time intelligence regarding people’s experiences and what more the Trust needs to do/do differently to create an equitable workplace.

For me, as a South Asian Indian queer/gay man, I’m aware that a lot of my history of being both South Asian, and queer, is often delegitimised or ignored. But actually, having it acknowledged, respected, appreciated, celebrated helps with my own sense of identity, helps me feel validated, visible and that not only do I matter, but those before me matter as well. 

Jazz Janagle
Jazz during Birmingham Pride 2022

We have so much beautiful diversity in our history and culture, and as a wider queer community most of us celebrate that diversity of colour, gender identity and freedom of expression. We are more than just labels and pronouns and drag and ‘the scene’ – we are all fierce and fabulous in our very own queer/gay way!

Why did you choose to work for the NHS?

I actually applied for the NHS graduate management scheme years ago, and got through to the final stage, but messed up my maths assessment, so didn’t get in - I was gutted, but it made me more determined to find my way into the organisation. I wanted to work for an organisation that does so much commendable and valuable work, and I especially wanted to work in services that support people who are minoritized, marginalised and underrepresented.

I left the NHS for a while and since coming back a year ago, I see how things have changed. I see the huge challenges we face, as a system, as a workforce, and how stretched we are and how there is even more need to be inclusive of those underrepresented communities.

Jazz Janagle

I’m constantly reminded of what a resilient, hard-working and committed workforce we have, including our Experts By Experience and volunteers, and I love that.

Describe yourself in three words

None of the words that first came into my head are printable so let's go with three things that sum me up: 

Boots, hair, Swarovski.

How do you look after your own mental health and wellbeing?

I started back at the gym this year, having not been for so long that I’d forgotten what it looked like! It's not rocket science, but physical activity is one of the best things for me mentally, and obviously physically. I'm trying to commit to early morning workouts during the week and I'm well chuffed with myself for getting to the gym for 6am - early morning workouts are the best mood booster for me. 

Aside from that, it's anything that feels chilled out and relaxed. Spending time with family/friends, especially my two beautiful little nephews, is hugely important, as is having alone time, Netflix and chilling (in the real sense, not the smutty sense), and laughter. There have been some tough periods in my life and now I’m in a good space I want to enjoy life, appreciate it, and I want to laugh every day and have fun and savour the good times.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be and why? 

My younger self was impacted really negatively by racist and homophobic bullying at school; my dad died suddenly when I was 15 and that was so tough and had a profound impact, and there were some truly awful experiences when I was 17, and then 18, that I only reported to the Police in the last few years, to ultimately get some closure. That trauma, pain, loss really damaged my sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

But there were also many, many happy and beautiful memories from a loving and supportive and amazing family.

I'd tell my younger self, because he really needed to hear this, so he could love and value himself: 

"You are worthy, you are beautiful, you matter. You have so much to live for yet, and so much to look forward to, so much to give, and so much to enjoy."

Oh, and I’d also say to him: "you're going to own some gorgeous boots and blingy jewellery, and have some funky hair, so own your inner fabulousness, embrace it and be your true authentic self!”

Jazz Janagle
Express yourself! Pictured left is Jazz's colourful hairstyles over the years, pictured right we see Jazz's large collection of glittery, metallic and bold statement boots!