Nick from Ystradgynlais blogs about how our social prescribing project helped him back on the right track after a mental health crisis.
It was around Christmas 2016 when things came to a head for me. I had suffered a number of knockbacks, including the DWP declaring me fit for work when I wasn’t, and my mum’s diagnosis of vascular dementia. Everything had got to be a bit too much and I’d hit rock bottom, to the point where I was seriously considering taking my own life.
Thankfully, I made it to a GP in January 2017 and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. The doctor advised me to get counselling. A few months later, the Mental Health Unit at my local hospital gave me the contact for Ystradgynlais Mind.
There, a worker called Carol sat me down. She was very supportive and listened to everything I had to say. She understood that I was feeling incredibly anxious and patiently explained all of the different courses and programmes Ystradgynlais Mind had to offer, one of which was social prescribing.
Social prescribing is a way of helping people deal with the things in their lives that can make them feel unhappy or anxious.
Addressing these things takes a little extra time and support, so social prescribing helps you find lots of different activities and support in your local community that can help you turn things around.
Through the social prescribing project, I was referred to a number of different activities that have helped me.
The Men’s Group was especially important to me: a number of different men from a variety of backgrounds, all different ages, getting together to improve their mental health.
In those sessions we had the opportunity to create, for example a woodworking lesson, though there’s always the option to just sit and chat with one another if you don’t want to join in with the activity.
Another group I found really helpful was a regular crafting group, led by a local art student. That has opened my eyes to some totally new activities, such as pottery, card making, and embossing.
Through the project I have made new friends, and that includes the staff at my local Mind. It’s more like a second family for me, and their support has really allowed me to come out of my shell, which is a vast improvement on how nervous I was when I first met everybody. Before their help and guidance, I felt withdrawn and isolated, and had no self-esteem. I was always putting myself down. It’s definitely widened my horizons, and I feel a lot more confident.
The pandemic has obviously put some restrictions on what we’re able to do now, but the staff at Ystradgynlais Mind have been fantastic, adapting sessions so we can join remotely and keeping everybody connected.
I’m so glad I took that step of starting social prescribing. I’m not sure where I’d be without it.
How our Social Prescribing programme is adapting to the coronavirus crisis
The response to the coronavirus pandemic means all of us have to live differently, and this is especially true for people with mental health problems. You are telling us that you have worries over loss of income and livelihood, as well as high levels of anxiety about the risk of contracting coronavirus itself. Even though link workers can't meet face to face right now, they can talk over the phone or online. They can still help explore what is going on in your life to make you feel depressed and anxious, and provide the support and strategies to help.
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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.