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Debbie's story: "I recommend the digital course to everybody!"

Debbie is a volunteer at the Mayfield Nurseries café and a graduate of the digital skills course.

“I wasn’t very well, I had been a long term carer for my elderly parents who had sadly passed away and we had isolated together all through the pandemic. When they passed away I suffered from very poor mental health. Luckily I had great support from the community mental health team who put in place a recovery plan for me.

I have absolutely no interest in gardening whatsoever. But as I was getting better, to help my recovery, they recommended that I come to Mayfield nurseries and it has transformed my life, far better than any medication.

When I first came here I couldn't even speak to people - I had been isolating with my mum so it was really strange being amongst people again. I found out about the computer course being offered. I used to use quite advanced computers - Computer Aided Design computers for warships. But all that kind of information I can't take in so well now. And I was quite nervous about modern technology, and I thought the course would be quite useful because so much is going online and is digital now.

I found out about the course from just coming here [Mayfield Nurseries], I think it was the second course that they ran which I joined. It was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Even for someone like myself with memory challenges now and again. They are so patient. They explain things in simple terms. And they don't mind repeating it. All of the tutors have got great empathy for people who've got mental health challenges for various reasons. If anybody's getting a bit stressed or frustrated that they can't do something then they seem to know when we're about to need a reboot. They'll offer us a little chat outside somewhere quiet, to sit yourself down. Nothing was too much trouble with them.

The groups are a nice size, when I went there was about eight of us. So there was one tutor for every two of us - their knowledge was great. They work as a really good team. They are so supportive of the individuals that come on the course. The group that I was with was mainly people between 50 and 75 or perhaps even older than that. The way they run the course is so empowering for people who are nervous of modern technology. Whereas Little People may not care if they make mistakes, I am very nervous of messing things up and breaking my computer or iPad. We've had an iPad for a couple of years but I never had the time to use it and when I did I was nervous that I would break it.

At the course they showed me how to use an iPad, how to use my mobile phone. It is really lovely the way they do the assessment at the start, it helps you think of your skills with a question like "What would you say 10 of your skills at the moment?" and then there is lovely surprise at the end of the course when they do it again and the scores go up. It makes you realise 'crikey, I've learned all that'. It's just smashing.

I've got much more confidence to make mistakes on my iPad and know how to get out of it. The bonus of the course, especially with someone like me with short term memory problems, is that if you’ve forgotten something, you can always come back on a Friday to the drop-in afternoon, the same friendly faces are there and one of them will be able to help sort something out. And if that person can't sort it out, there's such a good team that they'll find someone in the team who knows how to sort out something.

It's been so good for my confidence and getting used to being around people too. I volunteer at the café now and I recommend the digital course to everybody!”

What is the digital skills course?

Mayfield Garden Centre's Digital Skills Course is an 8 week course designed to reduce digital isolation and improve wellbeing through connection. The course covers everything from browsing the Internet safely, communicating safely with others online, booking online appointments, shopping and banking. The courses are held at Mayfield Nurseries in Southampton and at other community locations around Hampshire. A weekly digital drop-in at Mayfield Nurseries provides a friendly group for community members to get extra help with digital skills.

How is it funded?

It is free of charge for course participants and is funded through donations from individuals, grant-making bodies and corporate supporters. The programme receives no NHS or government funding.

Get involved by donating, fundraising, or sharing our Mind the Gap campaign. Seeking to ensure everyone has access to the mental health services they need.

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