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University of Bradford 'Expert' named in King's Birthday Honours


Expert by Experience

FOR dementia campaigner and University of Bradford ‘Expert by Experience,’ Dr Wendy Mitchell, the most rewarding part of her work is the responses she gets.

"People with dementia email me and tell me, 'I’m no longer afraid,' she said. "That’s the nicest thing."

Wendy knows just how frightening a prospect it can be. She was diagnosed with young onset dementia in 2014, aged 58, but has since made it her life’s mission to raise awareness of the condition. 

Having never previously used social media, she began to chronicle her journey in a blog. Two bestselling books followed, with a third out this week. And this weekend, she was named in the King’s Birthday Honours, having been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to People Living with Dementia. 

She said: "It’s all been rather crazy. I hope I have shown others never to give up on themselves, because no one knows what’s around the corner or what opportunities might come your way. But also, sometimes you have to go looking for those opportunities.

"I want to say to people with dementia, 'You’re capable of doing more than you think. It’s only other people telling you you can’t. I’m telling you, you can.'"

Expert by Experience

As an 'Expert by Experience' for the University of Bradford’s Centre for Applied Dementia Studies, Wendy has helped shape and transform how students, academics and practitioners understand and treat dementia. 

She said: "I just love Bradford’s ethos of inclusion. It’s so strong and meaningful, it’s not tokenistic. We really feel valued. When we are asked a question, we know they really want to listen to our answers. 

"Professionals and researchers are now contacting me wanting to know how they can work with people with dementia. 

"My success has allowed me to make my voice louder and if I can make other people’s voices louder along the way, then I’m happy."

Assistant Professor Clare Mason, Dementia Care Trainer and Experts by Experience lead at the University of Bradford, said: "I’m absolutely thrilled for Wendy, who is so very deserving of this award.  Wendy works tirelessly to raise awareness of dementia and she gives hope and inspiration to those who live with it.  We use Wendy’s blog, books and quotes in our teaching as it helps people understand how dementia affects a person’s daily life and the things they can do to support people to live as well as they can with it."

Wendy, from Beverley, East Yorks., has two adult daughters, Sarah and Gemma. She took early retirement from the NHS in 2015. In her blog, Which Me Am I Today?, she explains: "What I want is not sympathy. What I want is simply to raise awareness."

She has authored two Sunday Times bestselling books, Somebody I Used to Know and What I Wish People Knew About Dementia, the latter in collaboration with writer Anna Wharton. Her third book, One Last Thing: How to Live with the End in Mind, is published on Thursday, June 22. She will be speaking at Bradford Literature Festival on Sunday, July 2, at City Hall, from 3.30pm to 4.30pm. 

In 2019, she was given an Honorary Doctor of Health by the University of Bradford. 

Wendy is now looking forward to getting her gladrags on as an invited guest at a Buckingham Palace garden party, following her latest accolade. 

She said: "I am the least 'hat party' person around! It was a huge shock to be given this award and a wonderful honour."