From black days to a brighter future
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Before taking on my current role in the communications team at Bromford I was a support worker in Staffordshire and have first-hand experience of the problems that people face throughout the county. Being a support worker was one of the hardest (and most rewarding) jobs that I’ve ever done – believe me, I’ve had a few jobs so I’ve got plenty to compare to.
Over the three and half years that I worked in this role I helped hundreds of people whose needs ranged from wanting a little help to complete forms or make telephone calls to those who were homeless, desperate and even suicidal.
Here is another example of someone who I worked with that, without our help, I am convinced would not be here today.
Jane* sat in the middle of the floor in her dusty pink dressing gown surrounded by piles of unopened letters. It was about two in the afternoon and Jeremy Kyle’s patronising tones were blasting out of the TV in the corner of the small living room.
“I don’t know where to start, there’s years worth here,” she sobbed, shaking her head.
Sitting next to her, I handed Jane a grubby, white envelope from one of the piles. Twenty five minutes later, following a couple of trips to the kitchen for a cigarette and a lot of reassurance, tentatively she peeled open the envelope.
We had made a start.
An hour and a half later and we’d barely scratched the surface. There were brown envelopes and red letters everywhere but at least that first step had been taken.
Jane had been suffering from depression for years. She was abused as a child and had been a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husband. Her involvement in a road accident which saw a child left with life-changing injuries was the final straw for her already very poor mental health. She had spent time in hospital after attempting suicide on a number of occasions and had decided that the best medication was vodka (at least a bottle a day).
She had taken out loans and credit cards when she was married but had fallen behind with the repayments when she had lost her job following the road accident. She had countless debt collection agencies chasing her and the bailiffs had been instructed to recover her unpaid council tax.
Over the coming weeks the piles of letters became smaller and bags of old envelopes were dumped in the dustbin after every visit. Jane had even started opening letters as they came through the door. Her confidence in dealing with day-to-day life seemed to be returning. We had worked on her budgeting and set up payment plans for her priority debts, involving the Citizens Advice Bureau who had begun to prepare the paperwork for a bankruptcy application. Everything was going well and Jane seemed to be looking forward to the future. She had even talked about going back to work.
As I turned on my phone one Monday morning I had a voicemail from Jane. She sounded distressed: she said that she had been drinking and that she couldn’t take any more.
It was a couple of hours before I finally found out that she had been taken into hospital by the mental health crisis team. She had been having a secret relationship with a married man who, apparently out the blue, had decided that he wanted to end their relationship. Her self esteem had taken another battering and she had decided that enough was enough.
Over the coming weeks I walked with her to her appointments with her community psychiatric nurse (CPN) to ensure that she was getting the help that she needed. Although she was prescribed with varying medication, her mental health deteriorated. She was drinking more than ever and, needless to say, her letters went unopened and her bills unpaid again.
Over the coming months, Jane was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. She was taken off all medication and entered into a course of intensive therapy. During this time she also began working with the community alcohol team. We supported her throughout and as her mental health improved she started dealing with her letters and her bills were again being paid.
We managed to secure funding from The Bridging Fund charity to pay Jane’s bankruptcy fees and I sat with her in the court as over £19,000 worth of debt was written off. The sixteen weeks of therapy had helped Jane to deal with her illness and she had stopped drinking with the help of the alcohol team.
After a roller-coaster eighteen months for Jane she was finally signed off from our support. She was free from debt, free from alcohol and free from years of depression. She was full of confidence and had started a new relationship (on her terms) and was working part time in a job that she loved.
A few days after my last visit, I received a thank you card from Jane. The message inside shows that our support and persistence is really appreciated and is definitely needed.
“I wish to take this opportunity to thank you all for the assistance you have given me over the period of my illness, from the really black days when I could not see my problems being resolved.
“Thanks to Steve, Amy and members of your staff that have made it possible for me to see a brighter future. It’s nice to know that there are support groups out there and what an amazing job you people do.
“It goes without saying that without Steve’s untiring efforts that the outcome to myself would have been totally different. Thank you all so much.”
*Name has been changed
To read Bromford's response to Staffordshire County Council's announcement that they will be cutting £6m from their £11m supporting people budget, which provides vital help and support to the most vulnerable across the region click here.
Thank you for my life back is another example of how support not only makes a difference to someones life - but potentially helps to save it.