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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.

Good employment is good for mental health

Blog post by Steve Smith-Trask, Managing Director, Richmond Fellowship (South)

Everyone likes to complain about work – yet employment is proven to give us many personal benefits beyond a salary. From a social network to social status, developing self-esteem to developing new skills, employment is good for us. Being out of work can increase the risks of ill health and disease, and can have a particularly negative effect on an individual’s mental health.

Yet, studies have also shown that 1 in 6 employees are currently living with mental health problems; a study by Mind shows that fewer than half of these people feel able to tell their employers. The theme for World Mental Health Day 2017 is mental health and work, a pressing issue in today’s society.

That’s why employment services are one of the five types of support we provide at Richmond Fellowship. With 28 employment services across England, whether someone needs support to find work or to retain employment, our employment advisors provide individualised support for people living with mental health problems.

What does that mean in practice?

Our employment advisors get to know the person, not the CV.

It means that we don’t have targets to meet or quotas to fill. Instead, our focus is on the individual. We work with each person who uses our service to develop a plan based on their own strengths, experiences and goals, being mindful of the mental health problems they are living with. Our employment advisors get to know the person, not the CV. We believe that people using our services can achieve their goals, and we see our role as supporting them. It’s not a tick box exercise. It’s about working together to achieve each person’s goals.

At Richmond Fellowship, we believe that good employment is good for health. What that looks like will be different for each person. We don’t make assumptions about the kind of work that would be suitable for them. For some people that may mean an entry-level job; for others, that may mean a senior management position. Part-time or full-time, permanent or contract work – we work with you to help you achieve the outcome that is right for you.

Good employment is good for health.

It’s crucial that the people who use our services guide their own experience with Richmond Fellowship and have full ownership over their action plan. To help achieve this, we have recently developed a new web app called Aspire. Created by digital production company Mindwave Ventures, Aspire is a flexible, intuitive, and easy to use online portal to help us better support people in the digital age. Aspire allows people who use our services to work collaboratively with their employment advisor to build their action plan, track the steps they are taking, and tick off goals as they are achieved. We’ve had really positive feedback from our piloting of the scheme, and are rolling out across all of our employment services soon.

At the heart of everything we do is the belief that good employment is good for mental health. Our role is to empower the people who use our services to achieve their employment goals, and live their best life.

 

Liverpool comedy event tackles mental health stigma

Comedy trustPeople living with mental health problems have been given the chance to take to the stage and talk about their experiences as part of an evening of comedy to raise awareness for World Mental Health day.

Richmond Fellowship, the national charity making mental health recovery reality, has teamed up with the organisers of the annual Liverpool Comedy Festival to run the event tackling mental health stigma.

Feeling Funny, an evening of comedy held in the city on Thursday 8th October, is the culmination of a project where people living with mental health problems have undertaken work shops in writing and performing comedy.

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