On course for a new frame of mind

PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:23 14 August 2019

Elliot Brown, another student, Keith Upton, the learning support assistant, and Stephen Ford directing a short film for the group. Picture: Richard Wyatt.

Elliot Brown, another student, Keith Upton, the learning support assistant, and Stephen Ford directing a short film for the group. Picture: Richard Wyatt.

Richard Wyatt

How Havering Mind and adult education helped a Cranham 60-year-old through the loss of his partner

Stephen at home in his garden. Picture: Richard Wyatt.Stephen at home in his garden. Picture: Richard Wyatt.

From contemplating the end to celebrating his triumphs, a media mature student talks about his tumultuous journey. In two weeks, he and the other students will be celebrating their results at Havering Adult College.

Since he was a child, Cranham resident Stephen Ford, now 60, had always loved photography.

"I would go to Wales with my brother, take pictures of the sunset with film cameras, none of this digital swipey stuff," he told the Recorder, "I got a huge buzz from it."

But having never enjoyed education a lot, and never having had the right opportunities, Stephen swapped his tripods for a gardener's van.

Many years later, after losing his partner, Stephen found himself in dark place - even planning his own funeral to coincide with hers.

After revealing this to someone on the bereavement course he was taking, he was immediately booked an emergency appointment and referred to a psychiatrist.

"I did a few sessions with the psychiatrist, but it didn't help, she gave me the number for Havering Mind and they told me they could help me."

Stephen was put on the charity's Live A Better Life course, a stroke of luck as places tend to be fully booked.

"I prejudged people initially but the staff were so good, after a few weeks you start to relax and start to realise that it's not important who they are or where they're from," he explained, "you don't all have the same mental problem but you've got that connection.

"If you break down and cry, it doesn't matter, it's a safe space, a bubble of protection."

As well as having people to share his woes with, Stephen also noticed how helping his fellow sufferers cured him in imperceptible ways.

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"I had people to talk to about how I felt, but I was being helped by listening to others."

He continued: "I honestly believe that if I did this course in my 20s I would be a much better person, I would have learnt how to react better to situations and to others."

Havering Mind organises many different activities for its members, and Stephen was recommended a six-week film taster course with Spotlight Multimedia.

Having thoroughly enjoyed it, his supervisor Sharon encouraged him to take the 26-week course at Havering Adult College, but he was unsure as he'd never excelled academically.

"Trust me Stephen you can do it!" insisted Sharon, and with the promise of a support teacher to aid with writing, Stephen enrolled onto a Level 2 Certificate Creative Media - Film and TV course.

"I'm so glad she nagged me!" Stephen said, "you all have a go at filming, doing the sound and the directing - I loved the directing!

"I think I loved it so much because I had a go at bossing people around and I know I seem confident now but I wouldn't have been at all if it wasn't for Mind!"

Matt Hughes, course teacher, said: "Stephen initially lacked confidence regarding his ability to undertake an accredited qualification in filmmaking, but once he began the course he demonstrated a natural aptitude for filmmaking.

"His directorial skills behind the camera were first-rate. He was able to work extremely effectively with all the members of the film crew, not least of which the professional actors.

"It was a pleasure to work with Stephen, and it means a great deal to know that he gained as much as he did from the course."

Stephen ended by saying: "It was a wonderful experience, I would recommend it to anyone, I also want to say thank you to Keith my [learning support assistant] who was brilliant and thank you everyone at Havering Mind who helped me through everything."

The students from Havering Adult College will receive their results on Wednesday August 21.

Find out more on how either Havering Mind or Havering Adult College can help you at and

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