Janice blogs on how a befriender from her local Mind has helped her to stay on track, and why she's supporting our new Life Support campaign.
I have a range of mental and physical health problems, including Borderline Personality Disorder and a mood disorder. I’ve experienced mental health problems for well over 20 years, although, like so many others, it took me a long time to get a proper diagnosis and I had problems from a much younger age. I had a major operation around 18 months ago and struggled to recover, both physically and mentally. I have been in crisis a number of times over the years, which are always a really dark time, but had the support that I needed until the government cuts when my support was scaled back or stopped altogether.
I used to see my psychiatrist every month, now I can only see them in an emergency. I used to see my community psychiatric nurse every two weeks, now it’s only every three to four weeks. I no longer have a support worker, who I saw every week when I needed extra support and every two weeks when things were more settled. I was able to ring them too when my mood was really low and they would talk me through the issues that were causing me so much distress. I have lost this support altogether. Luckily I found support from my local mental health charity - Leeds Mind - who put me in touch with a befriender called Jess.
I can’t emphasise enough how much difference Jess has made to my wellbeing and recovery – she’s been an absolute lifesaver. Lots of the things Jess helps me with are small but significant. For example, she gets me out of the house – whether that’s getting the shopping, or just going out for coffee. She also helps me to manage and attend the many hospital appointments I have – I’d often missed them in the past. I’m not currently able to work due to ill health and she sorted out my benefits – something I would have struggled to do without her support.
I’d been receiving those dreaded brown envelopes from the DWP about my Disability Living Allowance (DLA). I knew it was coming to an end and I needed to apply for the replacement benefit PIP but it was so daunting and something I didn’t feel able to do. I was at the point of not applying but with Jess’s support, I completed the (massive) form and sent it off. When I was invited in for an assessment with Atos, Jess came with me which helped me feel less anxious. Because of my mental health problem, I find it difficult to form and maintain relationships with others. Jess was able to clarify how my health problems affected me when I was struggling to articulate things
The assessment lasted an hour and I ended up in a right state, even with Jess there. It was a pretty traumatic experience but I can’t imagine how bad it would have been had she not been there. Fortunately the assessors awarded me PIP, nearly all of which I use to pay for taxis, having no other means of transport and the extras I need for my physical health conditions. The benefit means I can keep some of my independence and get to hospital appointments or services at my local Mind, getting me out of the house, and starting to socialise and build relationships with other people who have similar problems.
Having Borderline Personality Disorder means I am isolated, alone and without any form of a network for help. Without outside help my mental health spirals out of control and crisis is just around the corner. Mind fulfil many of my needs but even their services cannot give me back all that has been taken away. Not having the ability to make that phone call when I need to means I often feel that my head will explode leaving me one step closer to crisis.
I haven’t been in crisis in the last two years, in massive part thanks to the support I’ve had from Jess and my local Mind in Leeds. I feel so fortunate to get this support but I don’t think it should fall to local charities to pick up the pieces. That’s why I’m supporting Mind’s ‘Life Support’ campaign – emphasising just how important these community services are to people like me who find it difficult to deal with the day-to-day challenges and urge those responsible for commissioning services to protect them from cuts.
Almost half of people with mental health problems have felt suicidal because of housing, money and benefits issues. Our new Life Support campaign is about protecting community services that help people with these issues - services that are under threat from cutbacks. Contact local your councillors today and urge them to take action to protect these services.