Alex has been diagnosed with a severe mental health condition that could be extremely debilitating. But his story shows that providing people with individual choices and training opportunities, and supporting them as they make decisions, really can help them recover their wellbeing and lead more fulfilling lives.
In June 2002 I was working as a mental health nurse in New Zealand. By July, I was doped up on medication at my parent’s home in Lancashire with a new diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia.
Since then, I’ve been on a very long journey attempting to find meaningful occupational activity. I’ve worked in paid employment in a shop and cleaned, tried to go back to nursing again, volunteered in a charity shop, volunteered in a horticultural programme for people with learning difficulties and volunteered as a dog walker. I’ve attempted supported work in a horticultural centre for people with mental health problems and I’ve been to college on programmes for people with mental health issues.
“I haven’t received the support I’ve needed…”
I haven’t been as successful as I’d have liked because I haven’t had enough responsibility or been challenged enough. As a result, I’ve felt undervalued and found the work meaningless. I haven’t received the support I’ve needed or been provided with the right environment to blossom. The activities I did for people with mental health problems were the worst. Here I found people who were even less functional than me and I began to think, ‘Maybe this is all there is to life; being extremely ill. I’ll be like these people forever, with no hope for recovery’. It was really demoralising.
“Things started to change…”
At last I felt immense hope. These were real people who were actually recovering.”
Things started to change for me last year when I started to attend the local Service User Forum hosted by Together. It was the first time since my diagnosis that I was mixing with people at various stages of recovery. Most of the people attending were further along the recovery road than me and at last I felt immense hope. These were real people who were actually recovering.
At the Service User Forum I found out about the Money Matters project run by Together. It was a financial literacy programme, which trained people with mental illness to help other people with mental illness manage their finances. I found the training programme difficult and didn’t enjoy it to begin with but once I started doing the work I loved it.
“I have responsibility…”
After doing a couple of presentations, I realised I was good at them and enjoyed the work. I decided I wouldn’t be as suited to the one-to-one work and asked if instead I could be involved with more presentations (on other things as well as Money Matters), which I have done. I’ve also been involved with recruitment, meetings and publicity.
At last I feel I’m doing something meaningful…and I am valued.
At last I feel like I’m doing something meaningful. I have responsibility and use my skills but I’m not overly stressed. I get the support I need, the environment is tailored to my needs, and I am valued. My self-esteem has improved, my sense of achievement is good, and my recovery is better.”
Alex has now taken up a paid position at Together.