MHAW2024 – Coping with past trauma & gaining confidence to engage with services for support & housing – Gabriel’s story

Continuing our coverage for Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 and our theme of community we hear from Gabriel who used Northampton Floating Housing Support Service with Together.

MHAW2024 – Coping with past trauma & gaining confidence to engage with services for support & housing – Gabriel’s story

Content warning – this article contains references to suicidal thoughts

Gabriel explains in his own words how a change to his environment and his setting in the community had real consequences for his mental health meaning he had to eave his job and became homeless leading to depression and suicidal thoughts. He explains how Deputy Service Manager at Northampton Floating Housing Support, Louise Robinson helped him to engage with services which he had found difficult previously and gave him confidence to access support. Gabriel also explains how he has dealt with trauma and ways he looks to contribute to his community himself.

Gabriel’s account is below and was written by him with support from Louise:

My mental health got so bad that I had to leave work, couldn’t concentrate and it was affecting the business. I felt so low I felt suicidal, and I didn’t know where to turn for help. My mental health has been really bad but due to my upbringing I thought that was normal. Things got so bad I called 111 for help and was told to ring the mental health helpline and that’s when I was referred to Together. Before I was referred to Together I contacted the council which was very difficult because of my mental health. I feel I struggle to get my point across.

I had already left the room I’d been renting for accommodation for the past two years and that was partly because the landlord had overloaded the house with new tenants. That was too much for my anxiety. The house was too full and noisy as there were 9 tenants (some with kids) and more were coming.

After I left my job I hadn’t realised I could claim housing benefits as I’d never claimed before. Due to the state of my mental health at the time I became jobless and homeless and felt like I just wanted to lie down outside and not wake up. The next day though I did manage to apply for universal Credit but when I went to the council I struggled to get my point across due to my anxiety and paranoia. They offered me a night shelter place but that terrified me as I couldn’t face being around people.

I’d also seen the mental health team at the council but again I couldn’t get my point across and didn’t feel listened to. They told me the problems I was having with my mental health were just because of the fact I was homeless. That caused me extreme distress, so I just left because I felt like there wasn’t any help they could provide. I felt worthless, ignored and was ready to give up.

It was then I received the call from Louise (Deputy Service Manager at Northampton Floating Housing Support) from Together saying she was going to support me. We met in the library at first but I found I couldn’t look her in the eye. At that point living on the street had broken me and I didn’t see the point in carrying on. My first meeting with Louise was positive though, I was struggling to get my share code for the right to work and my residency for a while but she managed to sort those out with me that day. This made me feel like someone wanted to help me and gave me confidence to feel like I could receive some support.

After that day Louise has been helping me in so many ways, like with housing. We managed to speak to the council and she helped me to get my point across providing a support letter to help me express myself and describe my situation and difficulties I’d had. The result of this has been me getting temporary accommodation in a self-contained studio. We also went to a crisis café again and she helped me explain my situation. That led to my GP prescribing me medication and me being referred to the mental health services and Louise came to that appointment with me too. I struggled with that meeting though due to the way it had gone before, and I had a panic attack and had to leave. Louise spoke to the health workers though and then explained it all to me. I’m due to attend my first talking therapy appointment this week. Having support from Louise has made me feel less alone and have less suicidal thoughts and my confidence is growing.

In the past I used to help people locally by providing them with free services like meal distribution, gardening, housekeeping and cleaning. I really enjoyed that but I stopped doing it because I lost my confidence but that is returning now and now I have something to work towards too. I feel like it’s important to help people because there are way too many people like me with nobody to help them. It makes me feel happy to help. My childhood was tough and I had to do a lot of things myself. I experienced domestic abuse and neglect so helping others feels like the right thing to do for me.

With help from Louise I feel much more calmer and confident with positive thoughts about my future. Louise will be introducing me to a tea and talk group she runs which I am looking forward to. That is something I wouldn’t have been able to do three months ago.

Reflecting on working alongside Gabriel and the progress he has made Louise reflected:

“It’s been such a pleasure to support Gabriel, I have seen the transformation in him over the last 3 months, he was so low and disheartened when I first met him, very nervous and distrusting of professionals, he couldn’t make eye contact with me. Over the next few months we tackled the different problems he was facing together, he has a very quiet voice and his lack of confidence and low self – esteem made communicating with professionals very difficult for him so was often misunderstood, having me there to prompt and reassure him that taking his time to explain things was ok has made such a difference. Getting him into a self- contained studio, getting him on the correct meds and a referral to Talking Therapies has changed his outlook on life. It’s truly great to see his progress! And a beautiful gesture Gabriel does after each support session he has with me is…he shakes my hand and thanks me for my support.”

Together would like to say a big thank you to Gabriel for sharing his lived experience and to Louise for supporting him to do so and sharing her own reflections.