MHA Week 2022 – Seeing the Whole Person – Martha who uses Norfolk Road Accommodation Service shares piece written on pressure of cost of living

Together’s theme for MHA 2022 is Seeing the Whole Person looking at ways our staff work with people with complex circumstances that can contribute to mental distress they’ve experienced or impact the support they receive. We felt this theme would provide us with an opportunity to raise awareness and demonstrate the way our staff work alongside people who use our services.

*Martha is a person who uses Together’s Norfolk Road Accommodation Service. She has struggled with her mental health in her adult life after experiencing trauma that caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and also led psychotic episodes. Those experiences of mental distress meant Martha was admitted to hospital several times in the past but never on a section 3 under the Mental Health Act. Since then Martha has found living in residential care at Norfolk Road with the independence that allows, while having access to support works well for her.

Recently, like a lot of people around the UK, Martha has felt the impact of the cost of living crisis and has been extremely worried about how her money will last each week. This has meant she has had to make tough decisions on what she can afford to buy and caused stress and anger at a situation that is beyond her control. These feelings have been resulting in Martha feeling mental distress which has been added to her previous lived experiences.

To address these feelings and help Martha to express them, Senior Support Worker Sophie Booth spent time with her to talk about the way the concerns were making her feel. Sophie assured Martha that is was OK to feel angry about the situation and to acknowledge that worrying about money would have a negative impact. By working together Sophie was able to write a piece of text from the conversation that expressed the way Martha was feeling and explained the decisions she was having to make each week and how those things impact her wellbeing.

Please read the piece that Sophie and Martha completed together below:

All I need

If anyone asks “how much does a person need”, I reply with the answer £24.90.

I have a bed and food available, no utility bills. So surely I need nothing else. My mental health is erratic and has been throughout my adult life. Long-stay hospital admissions was how I spent my 20s. Thankfully I am now back in the community. Well, sort of in the community. My mental health was never considered serious enough to be placed on a section 3, but is considered serious enough that I cannot live independently. So, now I live in residential care.

Residential care meets all basic survival needs and £24.90 is ‘all I need’. My glasses broke last week. I need my glasses but the cheapest replacement means I cannot afford cigarette’s this week. I know it’s bad to smoke but like many with long-term mental health illnesses, I am also an addict. I’m lucky in many ways, I could be addicted to alcohol or illegal drugs. I’ve seen many go down this path before. Not me, I’m lucky. But going a week without nicotine is hard! I want a haircut, I can’t remember the last time I went. I’ve been asking around and the cheapest I can find is £20. I can’t afford to spend a weeks worth of money on my hair. That will have to wait too.

They say I should be more involved in the local community. Attend activities, go into town and join groups. My mood is low, I didn’t sleep. That chocolate bun in the corner shop would be a lovely treat. A small ‘pick me up’ to get through a bad day. Then I remember, I need to attend an appointment with my psychiatrist this week. It’s not on a bus route, so I must save the taxi fare. Maybe I can save and buy that £2.00 chocolate bun next month. Maybe, because let’s be honest, £24.90 is ‘all I need’.

*Name has been changed as the participant preferred to remain anonymous