This Neurodiversity Celebration Week meet Ross Sysum. Three years ago he was diagnosed with autism at the age of 30.

Since then he’s continued to progress his career and is always looking to push the boundaries and embrace his next challenge.

Ross has worked within mental health services for the last 11 years in a variety of different roles.

Previously based in Leicester, Ross returned to his home town of Blackpool eight years ago and shortly afterwards began his registered nurse training. Working in a variety of different roles has seen Ross gain valuable experience, which has led him to his latest role as a clinical lead for our Home Based Treatment Team.

Ross explains: “I didn’t always know I wanted to work within mental health services, I think like many people of my generation, it wasn’t something that was openly talked about when I was growing up. I was studying to become an English teacher and I started to experience some of my own mental health struggles.

It was during this time that my career path changed and I started to work within mental health services and I haven’t looked back. I feel like I’m naturally empathetic, and having my own experiences and the lived realities of people close to me makes me want to help others and poor mental health can happen to anyone at any time.

One thing I always try to bring to work with me every day is the notion that I want to treat everyone as if they were my own family member and I encourage those around me to do the same.

There isn’t such thing as a typical working day which can sometimes present challenges for me as an autistic person.”

Ross began his road to diagnosis after suffering with fluctuating moods and feelings of social segregation. Many people describe their diagnosis as a lightbulb moment, but Ross didn’t quite have those feelings straight away.

Ross adds: “I had never considered I could be autistic, but I think that was because I had become so accustomed to masking. After speaking to the people who know me best, I did start to recognise some traits within myself. Now with my increased knowledge of autism, I feel like I can truly be myself and be accepted for who I am, which in turn makes me a better friend, family member and colleague.

There are certain scenarios which can be difficult to deal with as an autistic person but I thrive off the challenge and always approach these head on. I like to be pushed out of my comfort zone and given the opportunity to practice my skills when dealing with the urgent and unexpected. I feel supported by my colleagues and I’m really excited to start my new role and embrace the changes this will bring especially the new leadership elements of the role.”

Outside of work, Ross is kept busy with his four children and enjoys running, playing football and leading a healthy lifestyle, along with collecting old games consoles which he describes as his special interest and acts as a method of self-care.

Ross continues: “We are all unique, everyone’s minds work differently and we shouldn’t be defined by diagnosis or social pressures. If you have a goal, reach for it, with help and support we can all achieve great things. I hope by sharing my experiences it can help others to pursue their goals and also reach out if you need mental health support. I choose to work in mental health services as I want to help others, colleagues, service users, their families and our local communities.”