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Here one of our Solent Mind staff members shares their story.

Trigger warning: This post contains reference to suicide.

“I first attended Solent Mind’s Solent Recovery College (SRC) as I was suffering from a long history of mental health issues; depression, anxiety, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder).

I had been on different medications, tried different talking therapies but I still wasn’t getting anywhere. Everything came to a head in 2018 when I took an overdose. I had been told about the SRC previously, but dismissed going… looking back, I was still ashamed and afraid to attend a group with strangers. However, I knew I needed to take control of my life, and that things needed to change. SRC was my last hope to try and get better.

From the off, SRC had a huge effect on my recovery. I underestimated the impact attending a weekly class would make.

I really felt that for the first time in my life I was speaking truthfully about my feelings.

For me the courses stood out because they are led by Peer Trainers alongside an Adult Mental Health Trainer. Peer Trainers have lived experience of mental health issues which can be really impactful. They are often able to connect on a deeper level with the students.

Don’t underestimate the power of being surrounded by people with similar experiences to yourself – it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It was refreshing talking to people who were being honest and open, in an environment without any fear of judgement.

I felt empowered by going to SRC, because the new skills I’d learnt enabled me to really take control of my wellbeing. I was introduced to so many useful techniques and different ways of thinking: mindfulness, breathing exercises, and so many factors which contribute to mental illness.

The course had such a positive impact on me, so I decided I would like to share my experience and become a peer trainer. Initially I started by leading some mindfulness exercises and my role built from there, throughout the whole process the peer trainers were so encouraging.

I have been a peer trainer myself since January 2020 and I absolutely love it! If someone said to me a few years ago that I would be sharing my personal experiences with strangers, I never would’ve believed them!

One thing that will always stay with me was my first class as a peer trainer. I told my story about living with depression and what coping mechanisms work for me. After the lesson a student came up to me to explain how much it resonated with them.

That feedback was so important to me as I realised, if only person takes hope from me sharing my experiences, what greater gift is there to share?

During the COVID-19 pandemic there is no doubt peoples’ mental health will be affected. It’s very nature is anxiety inducing: we are surrounded by uncertainty, and not be able to see loved ones in person. Routine and structure in our lives have been disrupted, our leisure activities and the simple things we may have taken for granted have been taken away from us. It’s a very testing time for everyone, but it’s brilliant that many of Solent Mind’s services have been adapted, so they continue to operate and offer support to those who need it most.

One tip I’d give to everyone at this time would be to practise mindfulness – it’s something that everybody can do. Being mindful enriches our lives. During this time learning a simple, practical skill such as this can bring real clarity. Why not give it a try?”

If you would like to find support for any of the themes in this story, take a look at our following resources:

Solent Recovery College can offer you the opportunity to learn about recovery through a unique range of courses and short sessions.

If you or someone you know are experiencing a crisis and need urgent mental health support, please call 111 or visit www.111.nhs.uk and speak to the NHS Mental Health Triage Service.

If you, or someone you know, are at immediate risk of harming themselves or others, then please ring 999.

The Samaritans offer emotional support and a listening ear 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Free UK Telephone Number: 116 123

Our Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Helpline is for anyone experiencing poor mental health or wellbeing challenges as a result of the pandemic in Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

If you’re under 19, you can also call 0800 1111 to talk to Childline. The number will not appear on your phone bill.

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