Getting back on one’s feet, accessing support with daily living, employment and housing are all significant challenges for many people with mental health needs. Given the barriers, it is always heartening to read some success stories. Below are a few we have had the privilege to facilitate. Please note that names have been changed, and that the photos used are not of the service users who kindly gave permission for us to share their stories.
When John came to our Better Opportunities service in Westminster he identified that he was suffering from anxiety, lacked confidence and was socially isolated. He said that he wanted to find some meaningful activity in his life that would encourage him to get out of the house more. He also wanted to lose some weight and improve his physical fitness.
John was encouraged to look into his diet and exercise, and his engagement with this was a bright star his journey towards improved health and wellbeing. John felt comfortable attending the Westminster Wellbeing Hub and used the computers on a drop-in basis to conduct research into his interests in sport and music.
John was later introduced to the Get Fit Stay Active sessions, a project which Mind developed with London Sports Trust and CNWL. John enjoyed this group and became a regular attendee. It allowed him to improve his physical fitness and lose some weight. He also noticeably grew in confidence. Each week he was engaging more in conversation with other attendees and staff and he appeared brighter and more cheerful in mood.
As John’s confidence grew he expressed an interest in doing some voluntary work. The Community Programmes Co-ordinator was impressed and invited John to try being our receptionist at Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster Mind on a voluntary, trial basis. John took to this role very well and was offered one shift a week. He was quick to understand the tasks required of him and seemed to enjoy learning new skills. He was again improving in confidence with every shift. We asked John about what challenges he felt he had overcome and whether he’d recommend Better Opportunities to anyone. He said:
“The most difficult challenge was meeting new people in new surroundings and dealing with my anxiety. It was a problem just coming out of the house. Mind staff supported me to attend groups which gave me the confidence to go out on my own. I would recommend your services to people as you help people with their struggles and give them the support they need to live better.”
John continues to work on reception and has also taken on promotional roles, including leaflet dropping and promoting Minds’ Hub activities at mental health forums.
When Jason first joined the Children and Young People’s Services in Brent he was experiencing emotional distress. He joined the Like Minded youth mentoring programme. Jason had been diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder and was presenting symptoms of anxiety. But he was a determined young man, keen to develop his social skills, to be more independent and to explore educational interests together with his mentor. This is how Jason described his journey with Like Minded:
“I wanted to have someone for support. I cannot solely rely on my parents or brothers. I feel happy with Kevin, my mentor. I think mentoring has benefited me a lot, I can share personal feelings with him. We have good conversations, which I was unable to have with previous support services. I feel I have a better social time at school. With Kevin it seems upbeat and fun. I feel more happy these days.”
Jason has been making steady progress since he started meeting his mentor. His mental wellbeing continues to improve.
Anish used to drop in to the Community Befriending service in Westminster. He had a lot of difficulties socialising, often suffering from acute paranoia in public places such as cafes and tube stations. Unfortunately he didn’t have many friends around and he needed somebody who could understand him and help him feel more at ease in social situations.
The team at the befriending service found a potential befriender for Anish. This new friend helped him by creating a routine and structure, which could give him a sense of control. Going out to cafés was still challenging as Anish still felt paranoid, but having someone with him, playing a supportive role helped to make social situation more manageable. We asked Anish if he’d recommend our service, if someone asked him about it. He said:
“Yes, definitely. I would tell the person to give it a try because it might help them, as it helped me.”
Anish has now gained the ability to go outside alone, especially to those places he has visited with his new friend. He shows more confidence in talking to people and is now engaged in different activities, such as a music group and the IT group here at Mind.
Amy first came into contact with mental health services at the age of 16, receiving treatment and support for severe depression from child psychiatry at The Marlborough Clinic. Following three hospital admissions, at the age of 18, Amy was referred to North Westminster Community Mental Health Team. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder and diabetes. Amy was referred to Wandsworth & Westminster Mind’s Supported Housing Team by North Westminster CMHT in 2012. She was 21.
Amy began her tenancy with WW Mind in a shared, supported housing scheme on Harrow Road, North Westminster. Prior to this Amy had lived with her mother. Despite having a close relationship with her mother, Amy had been ostracised by her extended family due to becoming disinhibited when unwell. Amy was motivated to engage with support and work towards gaining the skills and resilience to manage her own tenancy and live independently at some point in the future.
During weekly support sessions with her housing support worker, Amy was supported to identify her interests and aspirations and work towards developing a weekly structure. Amy started voluntary nursery work and attending Slimming World. She opened a bank account and started saving for moving into her own flat. In one to one sessions, Amy was supported to gain a better understanding of her mental health. She developed good insight into both her mental and physical health, and how to look after herself. She accepted her need to use medication and took responsibility for it.
Amy was open to the idea of living outside of Westminster as long as the flat was close enough to regularly visit her mother. An application was made to Network Homes Housing Association for a Move On nomination. In the application Amy was able to demonstrate that she could manage her finances, pay her weekly service charge and was highly functioning in terms of daily living skills.
Amy moved into her own one bed flat in Fulham in November 2016 as part of a planned programme of rehabilitation from supported to independent accommodation in the community. The past year has had its challenges for Amy. She has managed, with minimal support, a review and appeal to DWP regarding her income entitlement. Now living in Fulham not Westminster, Amy researched and accessed local services independently (such as CAB, Mind, GP and a careers fair). Recently, Amy has been suffering from anxiety. This has been triggered by an ongoing issue with a neighbour around refuse. Amy has requested counselling from her GP and sessions are due to start in Autumn 2017. Amy has developed great insight into her mental and physical health over the last few years. Moving into her own flat has increased her ability and resilience to self –manage.