Things can happen but life can move on

Following the birth of her daughter, Rosetie experienced post-natal depression, which made her feel unable to leave the house. When her husband died and she was left with three daughters to look after, she began to feel that all hope had gone.

“When my consultant told me it was likely I would be on medication for the rest of my life, I felt that any hope of returning to my previous life had gone. I used to be a teacher, but now that seemed such a world away. I was finding it difficult to find any work, and it really felt like my mental ill-health was a barrier; people just didn’t want to know. So, I didn’t want to leave the house, and the longer I left it, the more worried I felt about getting out and about. I gradually lost contact with things and people who weren’t close to me.

When I found out about the support Certitude offered getting out and about with their Travel Buddy scheme, I thought that was something for me. They gave me encouragement even though I was scared, thinking I would get lost going anywhere new. It felt such a big step, but Patrick helped me build up my confidence and ability to get around London, and I found that I could do it! The city really started to open up for me.

I then became a Peer Support Worker on the Solidarity in a Crisis helpline. After receiving lots of training, I found that talking to and supporting others who had gone through similar experiences made me realise I wasn’t alone in facing a life of stress. It gave me a lot of resilience, and made me feel useful and resourceful. I became stronger – it felt like my brain was slowly waking up after a long sleep.

After a while, an opportunity came up to work as a Trainee Employment, Training and Education Advisor. I wasn’t sure at first but thought, well I should just give it a go and apply. And I got the job! I was so happy. I’m now training for an NVQ as part of the role. If I was still stuck in my house I would never have got to this stage!

I now have a clear routine. I have a sense of purpose to my day; I sleep well and exercise, look after my daughters, and really enjoy my work. When I look back to how things were, I realise how much progress I have made. I really feel back on two feet, confident and able to take on new things. Medication is the last thing my consultant is now looking at. All my hope is back!”

Cecelia’s got talent!

When Cecelia moved into a Certitude supported house it soon became clear that she is more than just a pretty face…

Until a couple of years ago, Cecelia was living with her sister in Greenford and, so, moving to a Certitude supported house was a big decision for the both of them to make. It was a significant change for Cecelia, particularly in terms of sharing space with other housemates, but with measured support she has quickly adapted and enjoys the social benefits of having more people to mix with. She is particularly fond of Adrian, who is a similar age, and they spend a lot of time together chatting.

However Cecelia is not just a social butterfly; she is very talented, too! She has a passion for performing and is an exceptional singer. Her Key Worker Jenny suggested she might like to join the Ealing-based Certitude Community Choir, The Inclusions, and now she regularly sings solos at their performances.

Choir Master, Edward Henderson, is proud to have her in the group and says her talent and confidence are a wonderful combination.

As well as singing, Cecelia continues to attend the Impact Theatre Group in Perivale, where she loves to act and is involved in many productions. Cecelia has expressed how she feels at home on stage and enjoys “talking about my feelings in front of people,” and clearly experiences no nerves. She attends this inclusive theatre organisation four days a week and learns about all aspects of theatre, from performing to set design and costume making. As if singing and acting weren’t enough, she has also been asked to model for the Impact Theatre Calendar – dressed in period costume!

Back at the house, Jenny has supported Cecelia with the re-decoration of her bedroom, so that it feels more like her own space. In keeping with her showbiz inclinations, she has opted for a glamorous look with pretty, feminine colours and silver-painted furniture.

Jenny says she has loved helping Cecelia with this project and that her smile lights up any room. It sounds as though Cecelia really does have the X-factor!

“I want to make progress, not just make do.”

When it comes to gardening, Richard is extremely green-fingered, talented and knowledgeable. He also happens to have schizophrenia, is on the autistic spectrum and does not currently take medication. Following the passing of his father while studying at Cambridge University, he and his mother decided that Richard required more support on what he describes as both “a painful and fulfilling journey.” Here’s what Richard had to say.

Around the time of my father’s passing, there seemed to be a limited understanding of mental health needs, mine in particular. Both socially and emotionally, I would say there were huge deficits in what would be considered as a stable lifestyle and, as a result, my mother and I decided that would benefit from further support.

Having been supported by Certitude now for over 20 years, I believe that the ongoing commitment to learning about and responding to my needs has been paramount to my development. They have helped me learn practical life skills, and introduced me to my new passion of horticultural gardening!

“What was imperative to me was that I kept my independence, but I also benefitted from the knowledge that a supportive presence was there should I need it.”

Gardening is a key demonstration of the stability I have been able to achieve, as it reflects my ability to organise, persevere and concentrate, which I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do psychologically before. I was also a complete computer-phobic, but I have managed to conquer and leap above this hurdle, too, with the support of my key workers and staff.

I can now say that I am proud of myself, I believe I have made my mother proud and that I have plenty to look forward to in the future. I feel as though I finally have inner-strength and the ability to cooperate with others.

“While I understand that there is still so much more room for progress, that’s exactly what I want to do: make progress, and not just make do.”

This is a landmark point in my life, and I would like to thank all of the people involved in the support I have received from Certitude, as well as my mother.

As an organisation, we work together with people and their families at their own pace to ensure we provide support in ways that work for them. We strive to be resourceful and find creative, personalised ways to work in partnership with people, through thick and thin. Please explore the rest of the website and find out more about the mental services we provide.

Independence with Autism

Theo’s first night away from home in eight years gave his brother a much-needed break from his caring responsibilities.

Theo is a man who enjoys going for walks through Virginia Water and Richmond Park, bopping his head to music and eating out at local restaurants. He also happens to have autism, which means that he often finds routine changes difficult.

The opportunity for Theo to stay at Certitude’s respite service and provide his family with a much-needed break became a priority for all those involved with his care. Theo was transitioning through an incredibly difficult period of his life and required 2-to-1 support; he had become increasingly aggressive and his brother was struggling to cope with the increasing demands of Theo’s care.

Family members discussed the preparation of his stay in great detail with our team. As he was not comfortable with changes to his routine, the agreed bed-time procedure mirrored that of his home schedule, while his brother provided a substantial amount of information regarding the situations that may arise throughout the night. Everything was prepared and ready, though Theo’s reaction to the evening’s plans were by no means certain.

Thankfully, Theo settled incredibly well – less than 10 minutes after tucking himself in, he began to shake the walls with his snoring!

Staff monitored his progress throughout the night and, in the morning, he was assisted with personal care, breakfast and medication before staff dropped him home.

Subsequent nights have, overall, been incredibly successful, and the overnight stays away from his home have been a gradual, cautious but positive progression in Theo’s development.

This was also the first night in many years that Theo’s brother was able to enjoy a night to himself. Theo’s brother now has time to meet friends, get through household tasks and has even taken on volunteering roles.

As an organisation, we work together with people and their families at their own pace to ensure we provide support in ways that work for them. We strive to be resourceful, finding creative ways to work in partnership with people, through thick and thin; we thank Theo and his family for sticking with us, too!

To find out more about our respite services, click here.

 

A trip down memory lane

In the summer Brian made a nostalgic trip back to his childhood home of Bury St Edmunds, accompanied by his Outreach Support Worker, Bruno.

 

Getting ready to go!
Getting ready to go!

Brian and his family were evacuated out of London when Brian was just a few months old and he lived in Bury St Edmunds before moving back to south London in his teens. Now in his 70s Brian meets up with Bruno every Wednesday as part of Certitude’s Wandsworth Outreach Service. Brian is a keen train and bus spotter so they usually take a trip around London on public transport and Bruno says he has been to so many interesting places because of Brian’s hobby:

Arrived at Bury.
Arrived at Bury.

“We often go to a particular cafe in Morden which is frequented by all the off-duty northern line tube drivers and they all know Brian and always stop for a chat. We recently got to ride in the cab of a tube train – a first for me – and sometimes we go to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. We have been meeting up since the spring and when Brian suggested the trip going back to Bury St Edmunds I thought it seemed like a lovely idea – combining his love of train travel with his desire to revisit his cousin.”

“However, a trip like this obviously couldn’t be completed in a morning so we had to think of another way. My Breaks was the obvious place to start as I knew that they took people on holiday as part of their service.  Brooke from the My Breaks team was able to organise and cost-out the trip for Brian and I was lucky enough to go along with him.”

Brian loved his time in Bury and enjoyed visiting his old haunts and meeting up with his cousin, Licia, who he had been close to as a child. He says:

The church where I was christened
The church where I was christened

“It was good to see my cousin as I hadn’t seen her for over 15 years and she hasn’t been all that well; we talked about the rest of the family and looked through some old photos.”

“Bury hasn’t changed that much, although there are more roundabouts and the football stadium has been knocked down and moved – which was a shame because I used to be able to watch the matches from my old house! It was quite emotional to go back – especially when we went to church where I was baptised but it was a good trip. It was fun to travel with Bruno as he is good company. We stayed in a lovely B&B, and went out for a meal and to a tea shop and to the market.

It was nice that I could arrange this trip through My Breaks and do something that I really wanted to do – with the support that I need.”

Brian and Bruno after a great day out
Brian and Bruno return home

Bruno was recently nominated for Certitude’s “Making a Difference Award” and Jake from My Breaks was a finalist in the 3rd Sector Care Community Engagement Awards.

My Breaks is a service within Certitude which supports people with learning disabilities to experience things that they quite possibly have never tried before, as well as meet people and make new lasting friendships. The service runs a range of day time community-based courses and Jake, Brooke and the team work closely with people we support to develop the most innovative, exciting and engaging activities and courses for everyone who takes part.  Find out more information about My Breaks here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The power of “Me” time

Identifying personal control hours has empowered Jason to take more decisions about how he lives his life.

Until recently, Jason’s mental health issues meant that he rarely left his registered care home in Lambeth. Staff had tried to help him engage with the outside world, but he preferred to stay at home surrounded by familiar people.

Then about a year ago Jason decided to participate in our Individual Service Fund pilot. Part of our ISF pilot focused on identifying “personal control hours” for individuals. The idea was to give people a greater sense of control over not just how they spent some of their time, but also who they spent it with. This adjustment in Jason’s support has triggered a significant change in how he involves himself with the local community and this is illustrated by the increase in the number of places he visits and the variety of people he now meets up with.

Every Monday and Friday Jason takes himself off to play table tennis at a nearby club where he’s made some good friends and participates in competitive matches. Twice a month he plays football with a crowd of Certitude staff and other people we support and in the winter he likes to work out at the gym. Taking up so much sport has brought multiple benefits; he is fitter, he is making new friends and he is learning new skills.

As well as taking up sport, Jason has become a keen shopper and has a growing collection of designer baseball caps. He regularly meets his mum for a cup of tea and a chat in Brixton and has recently signed up for a college course where he is hoping to expand his work-related skills.

Having time which was identified as purely for his personal support has empowered Jason to take his life back under his own control.

Initially he preferred someone from Certitude to go with him when he went out – and there is little doubt that knowing he could choose who that person was made a huge differenceto his attitude – but now Jason is happy to get himself to all his activities on his own. His confidence has grown so much that he is now beginning to reconnect with his old friends who are still living locally.

Staff at the house are really thrilled with Jason’s progress and are enjoying watching him rebuild his life and create his own natural support network.

Find our more about Certitude’s mental health services and how to access them here.

Listening with empathy, care and concern – Solidarity in a Crisis

“When someone invites you into their life to share their distress and you know you have helped them feel better about their situation you feel good.”

Solidarity in a CrisisThis is the view of Manju who has been working as a Peer Supporter for Solidarity in a Crisis (SiaC) since the service began operating in 2012. SiaC provides out of hours, phone support to people in Lambeth experiencing a mental health crisis. All SiaC Peer Supporters have lived experience and Manju believes that this personal knowledge plays an important part in enabling her and her colleagues to offer a very a different kind of mental health service.

“I think lived experience is crucial, it makes you more accepting of people’s circumstances and more sensitive to their needs. Also you are more likely to have the vocabulary, tools and skills required to talk someone through a situation if you have been through something similar yourself.”

In addition to relying on personal experience, all the Peer Supporters receive extensive training and ongoing support from the management team and their peers.

Manju explains: “The initial training was excellent; the presentation we received from a Leeds survivor-led service influenced our overall approach. We don’t ask people about their previous mental health history or any diagnosis, we keep in the moment and concentrate on dealing with the immediate situation. Anything that has happened before is irrelevant during a crisis and we like to respect people’s privacy.

“Equally, Tamara Russell’s Mindfulness course was incredible in opening my eyes to how to listen to people and it also showed us how important it is to look after our own mental health after supporting someone through a difficult situation. From my point of view this is the biggest challenge of the job – self-care and making sure my own recovery is not jeopardised by my exposure to other people’s distress. Fortunately we have a lot of support in place in the form of regular team meetings and individual supervision as well as good opportunities for training and a flexible approach to rotas.”

People who call Solidarity in a Crisis are often isolated and have no one else to turn to. The service provides an important support role throughout the weekend when most mental health services are not operating.

“Research has shown that these are the times of the week when people are most likely experience a crisis,” explains Manju. “Often we are the first person a caller has spoken to in several days and we listen with empathy and care, allowing people to offload their thoughts and feelings. When a person feels heard they usually start to feel better.”

Contact details:

Monday – Friday: 6.00pm – 12.00 midnight

Saturday & Sunday: 12.00 midday – 12.00 midnight

Freephone: 0300 123 1922

Or text on: 07595864103

Or email: outofhours-solidarity@certitude.org.uk

You can also follow Solidarity in a Crisis on Twitter @siac_solidarity and on Facebook.

Giving something back

Sandra had struggled with her mental health and staying well since she was a teenager. More recently, this had affected her confidence, which was extremely low. She felt isolated and unable to find a way to improve her situation.

Over the past few years, Certitude has supported Sandra to find ways to build her self-esteem – we have worked with her to identify new skills she wanted to learn and interests she wanted to pursue. Sandra says that doing group therapy for the first time was a revelation, in that she saw people brought together from a diverse range of backgrounds and walks of life.

“It felt so reassuring to not feel like I was the only one; to meet others who truly understand made me feel I was not alone and if they talk about how they feel then so can I.”

She is now at a stage where she feels she is in recovery. She has lots of good days and fewer bad days where she feels down. She is doing a lot with her life, including a three-year college course learning British Sign Language with the plan of becoming an interpreter.

In early 2013 we invited Sandra to help us develop a film to raise awareness of culturally relevant and recovery-oriented practice to our staff. Sandra was kind and brave enough to open a window to her life and share the history and daily struggles as an individual battling with mental health issues with dignity and determination.

Sandra says:

“I decided that, despite feeling nervous, I wanted to give something back to Certitude because the support I received from staff has really had such a positive effect to my recovery.”

Hirila, who works alongside Sandra to show her film with Certitude staff members, says:

“Sandra has had such impact on so many people. She has been able to take a room full of people and evoke a range of powerful emotions. She has made us laugh out loud with joy at her personal courage, shed tears at the agony and humiliation she experienced, feel proud and inspired and more than anything we have been motivated to go back to our jobs and be better managers!”

As an organisation, we believe that working together with people with lived experience enables us to design and deliver better support. To find out more please contact us.

 

Ever increasing circles

Dan is young, cool, musical and sporty and since moving into a Certitude supported house, earlier this year, he is finding new outlets for his interests. In collaboration with his support worker Izabela, Dan is making connections and finding new ways to get involved with his local community.

Dan is a talented drummer and is a keen member of the inclusive rock band I Love Thunder – “I love playing in the band, especially the performing.” He rehearses with the eight other members of the band every week and travels all over London and the South East playing gigs to an ever increasing number of fans. The band recently made runner-up in the 2014 EPIC Awards organised by Voluntary Arts and has its own website.

In addition to his burgeoning rock career, Dan enjoys cycling and he takes himself on long rides all over west London. He’s pretty good at finding his way around but keeps a special bike satnav with him just in case he feels a bit lost. He’s also likes running with a London running club and has worked up from 5k runs to 10k runs with his next aim being the Ealing half marathon. “I really love running, sometimes in a group and sometimes on my own, it feels good to run.”

Dan is keen to work and is employed one day a week at the Gunnersbury Park Museum as an archivist. His boss, Sarah Lowy, says she is “delighted with his work ethic and his achievements” and Dan enjoys the work but he would like to be doing even more. It’s an area that his Certitude support team are working on. “Dan has a lot to give and loads of energy so we are constantly exploring new work opportunities,” says Izabela. “He is naturally sociable and loves to be busy.”

As a young man with plenty of energy, Dan is an ideal volunteer for the Ealing Park Rangers. His work involves gardening and landscaping tasks with a team in the parks all over Ealing. It’s something he enjoys, “It’s fun and gets me outside. The people I work with are good friends especially Jamie, Pat, Carl and Rich.”

Dan’s parents live locally and he sees them regularly but, like any young person, he doesn’t want his parents to run his life. His independence is very important to him and having his own place in a central Ealing location has given him lots of opportunities to do things for himself. “I can get anywhere from here – either walking or on public transport. This location makes more things possible.”

If you would like to know more about out Supported Living services please contact us.

Family Matters

Certitude’s Family Support Manager, Lorraine Jarman, is looking at ways to build more positive relationships with the families of people we support. She is currently piloting a newly developed Certitude Family Support Plan.

I firmly believe that to support someone well we need to understand their role within their family as well as getting to know them as an individual. Over the years I have heard too many parents complain about professionals telling them what is best for their relative when they know differently. We want to ensure families feel part of the conversation about the support we are giving. Of course this isn’t a new thought, the challenge is how we go about it. How we capture the vast knowledge held by families – in a way that makes them feel comfortable – so that we can ensure this information is embedded into the support we give their loved one.

To address this we have developed a Certitude Family Support Plan. It poses a number of open questions designed to help us get to know a family and to understand how they would like us to communicate with them. We have also included questions which will help us identify their dreams are for their relative – and understand their worst nightmares.

An important, and sometimes cathartic part of the process, is taking a family history and this is a section which has to be handled sensitively. It may bring up bad memories for a family but it can also help explain some of the anxieties and behaviours we might observe. Hopefully it will also bring to light happy memories that can used as part of a life story book or ideas for things to do with a person in the future. We want the families to have ownership of this process so including family photos and pictures of the person we are supporting, both as an adult and a child, can help personalise the experience.

A Family Support Plan is not about paperwork; it’s about honest conversation, shared learning and active listening. And this conversation needs to be handled with compassion and understanding, most probably over several sessions spread over several weeks, and not over the phone. The benefit of this tool is that it has been designed to facilitate this conversation in a manner which allows us to gather the relevant information in a comprehensive way so that it can be shared appropriately and embedded in someone’s person-centred plan. It’s also a new way of opening discussions with families about Decision Making Agreements and can help us focus on how we can work together to offer an individual more control over their life.

As we undertake this pilot we are expecting to learn and adapt our Family Support Plan template and we will be welcoming feedback from the families taking part. I hope to share what we have learned in future blogs. Our aim for the not-too-distant future is to be able to offer all new families of people joining Certitude their own Family Support Plan.