In 2017 this client came into Mindspace. She was in great distress. She’d had to give up her job through severe anxiety, as she just couldn’t face it or cope with it. She was very distraught; she didn’t know what to do or where she was going in life and was struggling with activities of daily living.
I started to work with her as a peer support worker. I just let her talk for the first number of times, as she was very emotional.
We met weekly for a long time and gradually I was able to find out what she loves doing. She loves art and had always wanted to work with it, so we built on that. Over time we managed to find a church near where she lives, where there’s an art class every week for people with dementia, and she was able to volunteer there.
It was very traumatic for her as her self-esteem and confidence was very low. In my job, I can go out to things with people so I met her there at the church and introduced her to the people she’d be working with, before the first class. She was to help the older people with the colours, the paint palettes and everything. She was very anxious but she started to enjoy it and her confidence grew.
We started to talk about whether she’d thought about art college; she never thought she could. So again I just stayed alongside her, never pushing her to do it or telling her do it, but suggesting ideas and doing them with her. Together we made a phone call to the college, then we went up to the college, found the art department and, eventually, put an application for her to do art at college. That was a huge thing to do but I was alongside her, working with her and she was able to submit her application form. She had already done a lot of beautiful art in her own time, and she was called for an interview with her portfolio.
The interviewer at the college loved her work immediately, and actually called her “a designer”. She was offered a place to start at art college. I burst out crying out and she did too. She had gone so far in such a short distance. She has just finished her first year and is going on to do another year.
I think she will also get involved in art here at Mindspace, on a voluntary basis, doing whatever she can. To see her change from this really distraught person into such a funny, joking happy person… She has done extremely well.
The European Social Fund allows the Peer Support Hub to run; it allows all of us to work with all of these people. There are huge changes by getting alongside somebody. It’s a peer thing of knowing what they feel like; their pain and anxiety and their inability to do something. We’re not allowed to tell them what to do, but we can do things together, so I might start the phone call and hand it over. And it’s incredible how it can change people’s lives. If we didn’t get alongside our peers they wouldn’t be able to do it, to take that first step. Literally knowing how somebody feels is the key to working with someone.
You can pop in to Mindspace, call 01738 639657 or email [email protected]. Or, if you prefer, you can complete the form on this page and email it to [email protected] or post it to 18-20 York Place, Perth PH2 8EH.
The Peer Support Hub programme is part-funded by the European Social Fund, Perth & Kinross Council and The Gannochy Trust.