It is almost a year since I spoke to Anna after she had been supported by peer supporters from Solidarity in a Crisis. Their wise words on the phone at night when she was struggling with anxiety and hearing voices were a ‘lifesaver’, she told me.
She was also impressed about how they had supported her to build a trusting relationship with her GP, so she wasn’t in need of more costly secondary services (she had suffered two psychotic episodes and was sectioned and ended up in hospital both times).
But things are improving and I find Anna in a “better place… more calm and rational, attending groups more regularly… rather than as a newcomer”.
This includes a weekly Hearing Voices group, one-to-one hearing voices support and a weekly Paranoi and Beliefs group, which takes place at the Evening Sanctuary (based at the Living Well Partnership). She has been asked if she wants to train to facilitate at groups but she is not sure.
Another way she is being supported is via the evolving Lambeth Living Well Network Hub, the new front door to mental health services in the borough. She was the first self referral after she met the team at the Living Well Network’s monthly open morning, held at the Living Well Partnership (hosted by Mosaic). She is working with the GP Plus team and is impressed by how this support is helping her become more resilient.
She is impressed with her point of contact, Maria Hewitt, GP Plus lead, who she chats to on the phone (such is the multi-disciplinary approach that her worker was formerly with the Home Treatment team so understands Anna’s journey). “She’s a sounding board and has a wholistic view and is able to normalise things, which is comforting.
“I am very impressed and this is helping to build my confidence,” says Anna, who worked in marketing before she became unwell. What has also helped was access to a personal budget for one to one Hearing Voices Journey Work, which starts in January. She says the process was quite long and involved a lot of paperwork but is something that is relevant to her life.
“I still have a few wobbles and occasionally call Solidarity, ” she adds, but joining a gym is also helping. This is building on the courses she enjoyed at the Recovery College (South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, SLaM). She is pushing herself to go to the regular coffee mornings and afternoons at Railton Road (Certitude) and attending other meeting where service user involvement is crucial to shaping services. “I was able to use my social skills with people, small talk, contribute and scribe,” she says of a recent venture.
Now she is thinking about how to return to work and she has a new mentor to help take the next big step. Summing up Anna says, “the journey so far has been about New Horizons, I am a pioneer at getting through this!”
Photo: Tamara Russell