From working with our colleagues in the Older Person’s Therapeutic Intervention Team, we know that therapeutic intervention isn’t always suitable for people in crisis who are experiencing serious mental health challenges, especially when they are also living in chaotic circumstances. In fact, therapy can potentially be counter productive because the person wouldn’t be well placed to cope with the trauma that they could expose themselves to as part of the therapeutic process. Our colleagues emphasise the importance of the stabilisation work required to prepare people to engage with services and to increase their chances of engaging effectively with the process.

Tony was referred by his Community Psychiatric nurse after a significant break in his mental health although he was still in a very precarious place when we first met him. He was experiencing crippling bouts of anxiety and was unable to maintain perspective during setbacks or relapse; often catastrophising situations to the point of self-harm. In particular, his benefits were a huge trigger for self-harm as his literacy issues prevented him from engaging fully in the processes involved in maintaining a claim. Initially, we acted in an advocacy roll to help stabilise Tony’s finances which also gave us an opportunity to build rapport and trust. Using our ‘Good Conversations’ approach, we were able to gradually support Tony to articulate his needs and talk about what his best hopes were. We were able to layer in self-management support in areas like relaxation and sleep hygiene which begun the process of Tony building the tools needed to stop himself from reaching crisis points. As Tony built his confidence, we were able to successfully engage him with community based counselling services to continue the journey towards improved mental health.

Literacy issues were a source of shame for Tony and we were eventually able to connect him to classes offering one to one support where we facilitated an introduction to the tutor. We were also able to provide a volunteer buddy to accompany him for the initial sessions to help build his confidence.

A year after his referral, Tony’s circumstances have shifted significantly. He’s continued with his literacy classes and reports as feeling much better equipped to cope with stress and, most importantly, he feels that he knows how to act to prevent himself reaching crisis. We’ve been able to successfully connect him to social groups to build his connections and as his perspective has gradually shifted, he’s also reported that he has significantly reduced his dependency on medications like Benzodiazepine. Even more reassuring is the fact that he’s also minimised his use of alcohol and marijuana as a coping strategy.

Tony’s now taken the biggest step yet in agreeing to participate in the new Community Connectors Lifestyle Management service. Despite previous feelings of shame, he’s now participating in facilitated group courses where he’s learning more about self-management as well as sharing his experiences with others.

“The way forward is bright through the Community Connectors group and hopefully it keeps that way.”

We’re delighted to say that Tony agreed to appear on video talking about the progress he’s made so look out for that video on Twitter over the coming week and once it’s live, we’ll link to it here too.

Find us on Twitter @CCs_GCVS