Havering Mind 18 to 30 programme helps battle isolation
PUBLISHED: 10:00 17 December 2016
Socialising can be overwhelming for people experiencing mental health issues. Chloe Farand finds out about a group which helps mental health sufferers to meet people again
Isolation is a common consequence of people living with mental health issues.
In a society where socialising has intensified with ever growing social media, some young people find it more difficult to interact with others.
The 18 to 30 programme at Havering Mind aims to help mental health suffers to leave their homes and interact with others, developing skills and taking part in activities such as sports in a safe environment.
Group leader Sue Hagan has been running the programme for the past five years and has found positive results.
From sessions on anxiety, depression, anger, self-esteem and assertiveness to informal chats and games, she has seen service users “come out of their shell” and engage with others.
Abi, 20, was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder 18 months ago and also suffers from depression and anxiety.
In the seventh leg of the 12-week programme, Abi said the group has helped her to find the confidence to leave her home.
She said: “I am extremely sensitive to emotions and I feel the highs and lows, which can be difficult in some situations.
“Over the past 18 months I have been isolated and I have lost my friends through it. I never used to go out but now it has become part of my week and it’s nice to learn again how to talk to people and what to say.
“I can be myself in the group and people are encouraging. It makes me feel less lonely.”
Everyone in the group was initially a little nervous about attending the sessions, but fears soon gave way and group members now feel at ease and benefit from each others’ experiences and support.
Alfie, 23, has autism and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and told the Recorder: “I am using the group as self-help but we also all help each other.
“When I have completed it, I would consider becoming a peer and in turn helping others.”
The group has provided Alfie with a structure and a purpose, but also helped him to develop practical ways in which to deal with his mental wellbeing.
Sue aims to create an environment where people can talk about mental health while being understanding and compassionate towards others.
“It’s also about trying to enjoy life again and reflecting on what we can change for the future without worrying about it but continue to develop in the present,” she said.
Although each service user’s experience of mental health is different, Sue noticed most people had suffered from some form of bullying, whether in school, the workplace or online.
Abi believes social media can contribute to mental health issues as people are bombarded with “the life of celebrities and perfect bodies to live up to.”
On the other hand, Alfie said online specialised forums can provide comfort and support when no one else is around.
“But this can lead to self-diagnosis, which can be a slippery road. Everyone should still seek the help of professionals,” he added.