A pioneering mental health project is underway in Plymouth in which people with significant and long-term mental health problems are not just benefitting from the Ready Steady Thrive initiative but are helping to deliver it as well. Dan, a former chef, has spent the last four and a half years unemployed, fighting cancer and suffering from depression. Dan admits that at times he was unsure whether he would ‘make it’ but today, he is free-of-cancer, invigorated by exercise and about to start a new career. Dan who took part in the first course of Ready Steady Thrive last autumn says it helped to turn his life around:
“My life has been a bit of a train wreck really and a year ago, I hit a really dark depression and things were spiralling out of control. I was struggling with another bout of cancer; in pain and not exercising; nothing. Now, I’m not even the same guy and Ready Steady Thrive has just been a cog in the whole recovery plan but it’s a really important cog and from that I’m doing alright now.”
One in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year. For some it may be a short-term affliction; others may learn to manage their illness perhaps with medication, counselling or both but, for some less fortunate, it can ruin their lives. Ready Steady Thrive helps people get back on their feet by following ‘the five ways to well-being’. Working through five weekly two-hour zoom sessions it aims to give people basic tools to manage life’s daily ups and downs and help them look forward, one manageable step at a time.
Georgie admits, when she started the course, she was on the edge of a breakdown but with help from her peers, she has been able to overcome some of her fears: “I’ve always struggled to answer the telephone in case it was a male on the other end and we were doing one of the practical parts of the session and someone said, ‘think of a funny face when you answer the phone; one that will make you laugh’ and now I do that every time I answer the phone.”
Georgie admits that one of the biggest lessons she has learnt from the course is to be thankful for things, no matter how small or insignificant. Every night and every morning she writes in her Gratitude Book, she’s now on her second; “It keeps me on a level and on ‘down days’ I can look back and see what I’ve done: even if it’s something silly like I did the ironing, then it goes in the book, because what it shows is that I got off my bum and did the ironing! It’s little things that most people will say ‘that’s stupid’ but no, it’s not stupid; it’s what is needed in some people’s lives and I definitely needed it.”
Being alongside other people who are also experiencing their own challenges enables the individuals to learn from each other, to offer each other possible solutions and coping-strategies. For Dan it has had such a profound effect on his health; his confidence and his life that he is now volunteering as a peer-facilitator on the course; “You have to buy into it and put your trust in the process,” says Dan. “If you’re not mentally well then it’s really hard to do any of these things, but the course has been designed to help you. My support network has grown and when things go wrong now, I’m just about mentally able to cope with it.”
Ready Steady Thrive – which is delivered by the Positive People project under the POP umbrella – is unique to Plymouth and Torbay. It is funded by the Big Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund until September 2022. For more information contact Chris Maccullie on 07951 313163 or Five Ways to Wellbeing firstname.lastname@example.org.