Recovery Worker social media takeover

This week we’re dedicating our social media to our frontline staff and the work that they do. On Tuesday Anna, a Recovery Worker in one of our Crisis Houses is taking over our Twitter account to give you a day in the life of her job. Below, she tells us a bit more about herself and her work with Richmond Fellowship.

Hello, my name is Anna and I am currently a recovery worker for the Richmond Fellowship’s Lincolnshire Crisis Service. Although I have only been working here for four months, I am already loving the work! I decided to pursue a career as a recovery worker as – through my university studies in Psychology and seeing family members experience mental ill health – I knew I wanted to help people in psychological distress in any way I could. So when a job post came up for Richmond Fellowship as a Recovery Worker, I applied without a second thought and I am very glad I did. While not every day is the same (which is another thing I love about the job) typically my daily responsibilities include making support plans with people who use our service, and running intervention sessions on a 1-1 or group basis. I’ve conduced interventions on topics as wide ranging as  ‘managing anxiety’ , ‘managing low mood’ , ‘Voice Management’ , ‘Improving Sleep’ and ‘Addictive Behaviours’.

One of my favourite things about the job is that I am able to give interventions and support to people who use our service on topics which I am extremely interested in! But more so, it is that I am able to witness firsthand someone recovering from mental ill health, which feels so good and rewarding, especially because you’ve had some role in their recovery journey.

Working for Richmond Fellowship has gone beyond and above what I expected. Every member of staff, from Recovery Workers to Area Managers is extremely fair, friendly and as passionate about the job. We are kept in the loop about current affairs that may impact our service (e.g. COVID-19) and are always asked for our feedback on the service for improvements to be made, which you really feel is listened to. Furthermore, Richmond Fellowship are always providing training to their staff, including suicide prevention, first aid training and safeguarding. Richmond Fellowship have supported me greatly in allowing me to fulfil my potential as a recovery worker and hopefully a long career in mental health.

You can follow the week, and Anna’s social media takeover, here (https://twitter.com/rfmentalhealth).

World Mental Health Day – Leaving Hospital After Ten Years

World Mental Health Day (10 October) is the international day for global mental health awareness, education, and advocacy against social stigma.  This year’s theme is “Mental Health for All”, and we are sharing stories of people that we support that show how important that is. Maggs, a person we support living in one of our 24 hour community support services, shares her story of moving from the criminal justice system into our services.

Hi! My name is Maggs and I would like to share the highs and lows of my discharge from hospital into 24hr support in the community. Before this, I spent ten years in various hospitals around the country. I think I should start from the beginning: I have been in a very low and difficult place for a long time. In 2010 I was in a place I didn’t think I could escape. My family could also see the darkness of that place in my eyes. Ten years on I can now finally accept how mentally and physically poorly I was.

Over the last ten years I have spent time in prison (for my own safety and to give the courts time to be able to apply a 37 hospital order). Once I had that order, I went to my first hospital not expecting that I would be going into a further three hospitals after that.

After being in the hospital, I gained a lot of confidence and accepted the person I used to be.

I was discharged from hospital into the community within a 24hr support housing service. This was alongside another lady who had been in the same hospital as me, so it was good to know someone who lived there too. There were also ten men who lived at the house; however this didn’t affect me even though I have a bad history with men. To be fair they were a good laugh! Eventually my friend moved in to her own flat with support from staff. It was sad to see her go but I was also so happy for her as she had worked hard to get her own flat.

I found it hard after she left, because all I was listening to were ten men bantering, swearing and being inappropriate with what they were saying and the manner they were saying it in. But now when I look back on this I know we all were struggling with mental health problems and everyone deals with these issues in so many different ways.

I know it wasn’t down to the individuals in the house that I had relapsed again, it was because I had put high expectations on myself to mend people who were struggling too.

At this point, I didn’t feel as confident as I had when I left hospital but that was because I wanted to fulfil my dreams of helping others who have been in the same position as me. I thought that if I could help anyone who is struggling with their mental health in any way shape or form, I would be fulfilled. While all this was going on, I had family back home who had been in a bad place too due to watching their own mum try to take her own life so many times. I loved them so so much but I knew that I was in the way of them following their dreams too. So, as I said at the beginning, I was admitted to a further three hospitals over the next five years.

I was at my last hospital for nearly two years and during this stay I developed many skills. These skills were then tested to their limits because I wanted to be a mum, a grandma and be with my family more than I had been. I questioned what would help me find the true Maggs underneath all the heartbreak over the years, and how I would make sense of the last ten years. I really valued the skills I learned during DBT, and I still use them to this day.

So, moving into the community was exciting, happy, scary and emotional for me. I was moving back home to my family, and I was excited as I was able to be a mum again and felt so lucky to be a grandma to seven gorgeous grandchildren. I wasn’t the only person who was emotional about moving into the community, my family were too. They had been waiting for this day for a long time.

Due to Covid-19 I was unable to see the property I was moving to. Two of the staff visited before lockdown to assess me for the accommodation and I was accepted. When I realised I wouldn’t be able to see where I was moving to, I judged the staff that came to visit me who were really lovely and approachable. I felt that I would be okay just to move in. I think my thoughts were to push myself that bit further because I knew I was so far away from the Maggs I was in 2010.

I had also met my care coordinator Kevin and my social worker Lydia. They were both so lovely and approachable too, I knew this was something big and such a positive and an amazing move waiting for me to grab with both hands.

World Mental Health Day – Kelechi’s story

World Mental Health Day (10 October) is the international day for global mental health awareness, education, and advocacy against social stigma. This year’s theme is “Mental Health for All”, and we are sharing stories of people that we support that show how important that is. Kelechi Chioba, a person supported by Richmond Fellowship, tells us her story about battling mental ill health as a Black, LGBTIQA+, disabled woman who is also a survivor of domestic abuse.

I had a mental health disorder and polio when I was younger which means I have to use a wheelchair. Before my relapse I was a very active public speaker and activist. I travelled the country giving talks, training and meetings at universities. As a bi-sexual Black woman I spoke about a range of subjects including domestic abuse, LGBTQ+ identity, having a disability and feminism. I wanted to make a change as a domestic abuse survivor. I also talk about encouraging diversity in leadership.

It was after my hysterectomy that I broke down again. I felt down and hated giving talks, writing and my life. I used to love this.

In the Black community they have a myth – “Mental health is the white man’s disease”. There is no halfway. If you have mental health issues you must be mad. As a Black woman there is an expectation to be strong. You cannot be seen as weak and must keep your dignity. You may be dying inside but you can’t show it. In my church people would not sit next to me because of sexuality. When I experience racism in the UK I just want to run to the protection of the Black community but I am rejected because of my sexuality. I have no one to lean on. I am stuck in the middle of two worlds. This had a huge impact on my mental health. A mixture of culture, religion and beliefs all impacts me. Once, when I was sectioned and receiving treatment, a Black mental health nurse said “why are you here? If you are a believer in Christ you should not be here.” It is also hard to access support.

Sometimes you go to see an expert and there is no one from your community you can see who would understand your situation. You can’t just walk in and expect to be believed. It is a double punishment.

Eventually, I saw a psychiatrist who referred me to counselling. When I refused counselling, the doctor gave me Richmond Fellowship’s number. When I first started sessions with my recovery worker we made a checklist. We ticked off how I felt so I could visualize where I was mentally. We spoke every week. Before I relapsed, I was confident speaking to groups. Now I was scared of seeing people. So we focused on anxiety management and building confidence. Once I called my recovery worker and said I had trouble sleeping so we focused on sleep management. I was always listened to and could make decisions myself. We tailored the sessions to what I had experienced that week. This is something I really liked.

I didn’t feel seeing my recovery worker was working at first. I now realise it was having an impact within me. I started to find my passion again. It did not come all at once. It came little by little. I remember telling my recovery worker I am ready to give talks again. Everyone was so happy for me and so was I.

I came to Richmond Fellowship to get my passion back. I wanted to put my life back together and pick myself up. When I first came I said “I just want to get better. I want to know how to get a grip with managing my mental health”.

I now want to make a change. My life is hard. I am in a wheelchair and the discrimination and stereotypes are too much. I want to fix this world and encourage inclusivity in the community, government and in legislation. I want everyone to be equal and then I will be happy. This is why I go to give talks. I want to tell others to be proud of who and what you are. This is key for your mental health and you should always seek help if you need.

If you want to find out more about Kelechi and her recovery journey, please search her name on YouTube.

Post lockdown tour of our services

Since lockdown has started to ease, Jo Schofield, our Head of Operations in the North, has taken the opportunity to visit several services and see for herself how staff and people we support have been getting on.

In this blog, she tells us more about these visits and what they tell us about our staff’s commitment to Making Recovery Reality, and how proud she is of how well staff and people we support adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic

Moor View (Care Home)

Yesterday was a great day for me. As Head of Operations for the North, I have always been out and about visiting our services but due to Covid-19 that hasn’t been possible since March 2020. However, yesterday I ventured out to my first service visit since lockdown. I visited Moor View our registered care home in Halifax with 24-hour nursing. Upon arrival, I was temperature checked and offered disposable PPE.

Even though I was at Moor View for a meeting with colleagues, I took in the environment and was impressed with the cleanliness of the building. I introduced myself to two staff who I haven’t met before and they told me that they felt safe in the workplace, they felt well informed and supported. Whilst I have heard daily about the good work that is happening in services, there is nothing quite like seeing it for yourself!

Our frontline workers have continued to go into their workplace and adapted their home life to ensure they are as safe as they can be to continue to support the people that use our services.

Today I really felt such pride for everyone I met at Moor View. Not only our frontline staff for their awareness and alertness around Covid-19 but also the people living in our services. It was obvious to me that a lot of work had taken place to educate some of our residents about keeping themselves safe and respecting personal space and maintaining a safe distance with our staff and other residents and visitors to the service.

Trevayler (Crisis House)

Continuing on my visits to services to see how things are going on the frontline during the pandemic, last week took me to Trevayler. Trevayler has two elements; a transitional unit for people moving from a hospital setting and also a crisis house for people experiencing a mental health crisis that require some interventions to prevent a further relapse in their mental health.

As I walked down the drive, I could see what has now become a familiar sight when visiting Richmond Fellowship services; the colourful rainbows in the window that residents and guests had coloured to represent “hope” during the pandemic.

On arrival I was told that I was entering a Covid-19 free zone and asked if I had had any of the identified symptoms, which I confirmed that I had not. I spent time walking around the building and viewing an area of the building that will be transformed into a Crisis Haven over the coming weeks.

There were six staff in handover and I talked to them about how they felt coming into work on the frontline during the pandemic. They collectively told me that this was their job and that they did what they do. At this point, they felt very supported and said that  Richmond Fellowship had done everything possible to make sure they were safe.

As a senior leader in the organisation, I came away feeling proud of the staff working at Trevayler and how they had made adjustments to their lives to ensure the safety of those they support.

There are no words that can describe my gratitude of those working on the frontline to ensure that people we support continue to get the support they need, when they need it.

Tower House (24 Hour Supported Housing)

Last week, my service visits continued. I went to Tower House which is a 24 hour Supported Housing Service in Chester.

Upon arrival I couldn’t hide my smile as I saw the window covered in rainbows acknowledging “hope” during the pandemic. Residents engaged with craft sessions to decorate the window; joined in the clap for carers on Thursdays at 8pm and knew the importance of keeping themselves safe to reduce the risk of falling victim to the virus.

As I was shown around the beautiful building I met resident after resident who kept a safe distance and wore their face masks when they were in communal areas. One of the residents I spoke to explained that they had COPD and therefore was exempt from wearing a face mask but told me that they weren’t going to take any chances and was happy to wear one to keep everyone safe.

The three staff on duty spoke to me about how the residents have responded positively to changes within their living environment and how to start with it was extremely difficult but with lots of education about the Coronavirus and additional support offered, residents had responded really positively. They were really proud of how the residents had adapted during this really difficult time.

I came away from Tower House feeling confident that the staff and residents were working together to keep the service operating in a safe way and that the safety measures in place were not intrusive, but a true reflection on how the virus is being taken seriously within the setting.

What these service visits have shown

These service visits have reinforced what I already knew about our amazing staff and people we support. Throughout the entire pandemic, staff have shown resilience and commitment to our mission: making recovery reality. Even when the country was in a state of crisis, every staff member I encountered radiated hope and respect. They were all focused on enabling the people we support to achieve their goals even in the most adverse external circumstances.

As lockdown measures continue to change, we will keep working with staff and people we support to adapt how our services operate. We believe that everyone has a right to participate fully in society, and we will always ensure our services are running – whatever challenges the future might hold.

Pride at Recovery Focus

“No Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us” – Micah Bazant

Katie Howlen, HR Shared Services Coordinator in People & Organisation Development, gives a short history on the background of Pride month and why it is still important today.

June marks Pride Month, usually, a cause for celebration but circumstances feel very different this year. Pride month is a joyous month where people come together to celebrate the amazing achievements of the LGBTQ+ community, raise political awareness of current issues, and show unity and solidarity.

The Covid-19 pandemic already meant that Pride this year was going to feel different. Now even more so as the Black Lives Matter movement sees people globally taking action to protest racial inequality.  While it may be hard to feel the same sense of joy and unity while so many are in pain it is important to remember that the gay rights movements started with protests led by black members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Pride has been an annual event to mark the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York with the first UK Pride Rally in London 1972. The Stonewall uprising took place in the wider context of the civil rights movement. After a decade of raids, arrests, police brutality and oppression faced by the LGBTQ+ community, the Stonewall raid was the catalyst for riots and protests. Led by black trans women, drag queens, gay men & women as a collective these protests and riots lasted several days and marked the start of the gay rights movement we know today. Courageous individuals such as Marsh P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major Griffin- Gracey lead the fight against brutality and injustice towards the gay community in America which then spread globally.

Although this Pride month may not be what we usually know it is still so important to celebrate the achievements that have been made over the past decades and are being made right now. We should use the current climate to provide context and steer for the work that still needs to be done.

So this Pride I am happy that our organisation shows unity with and celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and is committing to that work ahead. However, it is imperative that as a national charity, we maintain this support all year round and not just for Pride month. We must ensure that all voices within the LGBTQ+ community are heard especially those who may be less visible and marginalised. As a national charity with equality and inclusion at the heart of what we do we should and must ensure all our employees are heard, and that they can challenge and provide input into how we can make our organisation more inclusive and diverse. With the Black Lives Matter movement taking place globally, there is an opportunity to address inequality and create a society better for everyone. It’s been over 50 years since the Stonewall Riots. Now more than ever we must all come together and push to create changes that will continue to shape a better future for all!

Now more than ever we must all come together and push to create changes that will continue to shape a better future for all!

Aimee’s story – blog for Time to Talk Day

On Time to Talk Day, Aimee Wilson, who uses Richmond Fellowship’s services in Northumberland shares her own experiences of talking about mental health and reiterates why it’s so important.

“Talking about mental health is becoming less and less taboo and it’s partly thanks to days like Time to Talk Day! Ten years ago, when I began experiencing auditory hallucinations, mental health was a subject greeted with hushed voices and spiteful gossip. From my personal experience, being diagnosed with a mental health disorder in 2009 came with a million negative connotations and assumptions that left the person feeling isolated and hopeless; believing that because no one else was talking about mental health, they were alone in their experiences.

I spent almost two weeks hearing voices before I finally told a professional and when I did; it was a result of an act of desperation and panic following my first suicide attempt and admission to a psychiatric hospital under the Mental Health Act.

No one could comprehend why I felt suicidal, so it was with great struggle that I fought my doubts and fears and confided in a nurse one night in the ward communal sitting room. This was a relief, but I was still so afraid of judgement and being misunderstood that even after speaking out I struggled to continue the momentum into the following day when the psychiatrist came rushing into my hospital room talking about psychosis and medications. However, once the medication started to take effect, I was able to see how talking about my mental health enabled the staff to be better placed to help and support me.

This thought was encouraging; it filled me with a sense of hope that if I opened up more, then maybe I could get better. It was this reason that motivated me to continue to be honest about my mental health; I told professionals when I’d self-harmed, I spoke about my trauma and my hallucinations, and I talked about any overwhelming emotions that influenced my behaviours.

In fact it was this openness and honesty that inspired me to begin my blog: ‘I’m NOT Disordered’ four years after I was first hospitalised. Over the past six years, my blog has been praised and commended for its honesty, having instilled hope and confidence in its readers. The feedback from my readers has been that by sharing my own experiences of hallucinations and explaining how overwhelming my emotions were, others have gained a better understanding of how they can support those they love and care for, who are having similar experiences.

Similarly, speaking out about my trauma and the impact it has had on me via my blog, has inspired my readers who’ve also experienced trauma to seek help and support. For example, one of the greatest messages I’ve received was from a reader who had experienced a trauma over 30 years ago. After reading my blog post about finding the strength to report my trauma, this person made the decision to report their own trauma. The realisation that my words and experiences had had such a significant impact on someone’s life was overwhelming, but it only spurred me on to write more. I continued to write about my self-harm and suicide attempts aiming to reassure others that they weren’t going through similar experiences alone.

Ultimately, it is these things that make mental health such a worthwhile and potentially life-saving topic of conversation. One that should be on everyone’s lips.”