Mental health support network for PWWP

Mental health illness support network for People working with people

Battling mental health!

on December 12, 2012

Friends help others after battling own mental ill health

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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South Wales Evening Post

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WATCHING Michelle Healy enjoy putting up Christmas decorations with her spirited little lad Jaidon, it is hard to believe that when he was born she suffered such severe post natal depression she had to be sectioned and hospitalised for two weeks.

The little family is on an even keel now but after becoming a victim of crime, coping with a bad relationship and struggling to get the kind of support from the authorities she felt she needed, the new mum fell into a spiral of mental decline, ending up on anti-psychotic drugs.

With her little boy now 3, Michelle, from West Cross, is back on form and she is mentoring others with mental health issues.

And she and a friend are determined to have a long-term impact, by setting up a new support group, People Helping People.

She says getting out there and lending a hand to others has given her new-found focus.

“So many things were happening in my life at the time I became ill.

“I was the victim of fraud and someone hacked my phone.

“I was having problems with a relationship and there was the baby to look after.

“I gave up my job as a hairdresser to have the baby and I really missed work.”

It all got too much and Michelle was hit by post natal depression and psychosis.

“I was in Cefn Coed for 13 days β€” I slept for five days β€” I think that was the main problem for me. I really needed to sleep.”

Now in good shape, Michelle says that when the mental health problems hit her she was surprised at the level of ignorance that prevailed about such conditions.

In fact research by mental health group Time To Change Wales reveals that one in seven people believe those with a mental illness can never fully recover.

Michelle is keen to challenge misconceptions like that one, so she volunteers with a project called Transcend as a mentor for others in distress.

“Twice a week I meet up with someone who needs help β€” it could be someone who doesn’t want to leave the house but who needs to go out to the dentist.

“I will go with them, or we will just go out for a coffee or for something to eat. We are friends.

“It helps them that I have been there and I know what it is like.”

She has set up a new scheme too, People Helping People, with a fellow volunteer Jordana Thomas.

Jordana, 26, has also suffered depression and she says she hopes the scheme will help lessen some of the stigma of mental health problems.

“I suffered with depression for at least six years and I was hospitalised last year.

“I am surprised it is still such a taboo subject and in the long-term I hope People Helping People can help to reduce that so it is treated like any physical illness.”

While Jordana says she has been lucky in the amount of support she has enjoyed from friends and family she has found the idea of returning to the working world tough.

“You do find out who your friends are, and I have lost some but gained others who have been through similar things.

“While I can’t say I lost my job because of the depression I have been at that point where the thought of going back after a long time away has been too much, so it has affected my working life.

“But like Michelle I am mentoring others with Transcend and I that makes me think about how I have dealt with things in the past and how I could have done things differently, so it has been good for me.”

People Working With People launches on Saturday with a family fun day at Swansea’s Grand Theatre, an advisory service, and later the publication of a book of people’s stories.

Time to Change Wales is backing Michelle and Jordana’s project and their programme manager Cath Lindley says: “It is great to see People Working With People challenging the stigma around mental illness in such a fun way.

“One in four of us will experience mental health problems so stigma is something that affects families, workplaces and communities across Wales.

“This is the first of a number of community projects that will be funded by Time to Change Wales over the coming months and we’re really excited that it is happening in Swansea.”

Michelle is hoping that People Helping People will be able to lead people back to more stable lives, as she is making inroads into a settled life with her lad.

“My mum looked after Jaidon when I was ill and he is back with me now, so he has been a bit unsettled.

“We are trying to get back to normal now.

“It isn’t easy but we will get that bond back.

“And keeping busy helps me a lot.

“I go on the running machine and I do the mentoring.

“It helps me feel like I am something again.

“When I was ill I just felt ignored. I felt like nothing.”

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