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Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from the 13th – 19th May; it’s an important week for raising awareness of mental health in our country.  Adults with mental health issues are all too often a forgotten part of our society.  Without the right help, these individuals can live a very lonely life surrounded by a stigma and a deep misunderstanding of the challenges faced by those who suffer from poor mental health.

Mental health problems take many guises and can be triggered by events, lifestyles such as alcoholism and drugs and even genetics.  Sometimes it becomes abundantly clear that the person you love is suffering, but in other cases, mental ill-health can sneak up on an individual over a number of months or years.

Two thirds of us will suffer with some form of mental health issue in our lifetimes. Although stress is a key factor, the illness is still very much misunderstood and sometimes difficult to know where to get the right help.

We caught up with Sonia Waters, Service Manager at Pitches View in Reydon which is managed by Orwell Housing Association in Ipswich.  She explains about the benefits of choosing Extra Care as a real alternative living environment for those with mental health.

“We are not a ‘care’ home.  That is first and foremost,” explains Sonia.  “Everyone who lives at Pitches View has their own self-contained apartment; there are no restrictions on security, yet the environment is safe.

The tenants have varying ‘care & support’ needs and we cater for different age ranges.  We have tenants that live with mental health, but the difference is they are just as integral to the tenant group as those that don’t.

We support our tenants living with mental health to live as independently as possible, by assisting with personal care, medication, food and meal preparation, shopping, laundry, cleaning and activities.”

Roy Gill came to Pitches View in January 2016 after suffering bouts of terrible depression for four years after the sudden loss of his wife in November 2012.  She was just 70 years old and contracted a rare form of Middle Eastern Meningitis on a flight back from Poland where she was visiting her son.

Roy explains: “The death of my wife came totally out of the blue and it was so difficult for me to handle.  We were living at the time in Cornwall, enjoying our retirement and had many plans still. I decided to sell the property and move to Somerset.  I was a lecturer in Geo Science at Edinburgh University and thought it would be a good place to settle with the wonderful Jurassic coastline there.  I made some new friends and gave talks on fossils which I enjoyed, but loneliness was starting to creep up on me.  I became withdrawn, lost focus and didn’t want to get up in the morning.

In 2015 whilst visiting my daughter she became increasingly worried about me, I didn’t talk or engage and became really depressed.  I spent six-months with her in Reydon and attended the health centre where they treated me for depression.  Eventually she agreed to let me go back to Somerset, but on the way back I had an accident, I can’t really remember it and the health workers thought that I had tried to kill myself.

I was taken to a hospital in Taunton and treated for mental health issues.  They put me on many medications, some that made me paranoid and I felt even worse for a while.  I am a scientist and I didn’t understand what was going on.  I was scared.

When I was discharged, I did go back to Somerset, but my daughter was still concerned about my mental health. She wanted me to move nearer to her in the East of England.

She contacted Suffolk Mental Health, who helped me so much and eventually a place was found for me at Pitches View.  I had talking therapy with The Community Mental Health Practioner; she helped me to learn how to come to terms with my future.  Being in an environment where I can meet other people, have staff on hand to help me if needed has been so stablising for me.  I did have a relapse, but, again, my Practioner helped me to cope again, she helped me to focus.

The death of my wife hit me hard.  It changed my life.  My wonderful life had gone as far as I could see it.  I had never been depressed in my life and here I was in my late 70’s suffering with depression.  Dealing with the death of a loved one is tough, people cope in different ways or don’t cope at all.

I have the greatest respect for all of the staff here at Pitches View, the care support and understanding I receive is amazing.  I have my daughter nearby and grandchildren and feel I am now much more focused and enjoy having a group of caring people around me.”

“It is so rewarding to be able to care for those living with mental health and seeing the improvements they make.  I think that being able to live independently still is a huge factor in this; it gives them self-respect and ownership,” commented Sonia.

“This is just one of our successes we have had in dealing and caring for those with mental health.  We take pride in enriching the lives of all of our tenants, despite the difficulties they may have.  Yes, there is an alternative way to live with mental health, everyone deserves to have a quality of life.”