It’s all about whatever is right for you at that point in your life
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I was lucky enough to be invited along to one of Bromford’s MyPlace schemes to meet Patrick Woolery recently to get a little insight into his life. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar at the age of 19, Patrick (now 54) has lived at Mallow Court in Wolverhampton for over seven years.
Neil Lavelle has, in various guises, worked at Mallow Court for the last 13 years and knows all too well the challenges faced when working with people living with mental ill health.
“It’s all about having the time to get to know people and treating every single person as an individual. Having the opportunity to build good relationships is key, and our MyPlace model allows us to spend valuable time with our customers. Patrick is a great example of someone who has struggled in general needs accommodation but, given the right foundations, is living a happy life.”
As I walked into the communal kitchen where Patrick was making a cup of tea, I was greeted with a wide smile and welcoming handshake – with Patrick telling me how much he loved living at Mallow Court.
“Mallow Court is my home. I love it here.” He said enthuastically as he stirred his tea.
We moved from the kitchen into the comfortable lounge, with its two plush settees, a large widescreen TV and massive selection of DVDs. It’s a room that’s easy to relax in and escape the stresses of the outside world. Patrick was quick to tell me how he enjoyed spending time there and, much to Neil’s delight, how impressed he is with the work that Neil has put into making the place so welcoming.
“It really benefits me coming into this room. Sometimes all I need is to sit down with a cup of tea in front of the telly…and Neil has done a beautiful job of choosing the furniture.”
As we chatted, Patrick shared his hopes for the future with us; “Like everybody else I hope that one day I’ll have a partner, a nice steady job, be able to buy a home, a car and to have some money in my pocket for a ‘rainy day’. But I do realise that I might never be well enough to move on from my home here at Mallow Court.
“Sometimes I’m okay and nobody would ever know about my diagnosis, but other times it’s really obvious that I’m not very well. I’ve lived with a lot of uncertainty in my life so to know that there’s no pressure or expectation for me to ever leave here is so reassuring.
“I used to live in a flat in Bilston but had to leave there because of some problems with people in the local community who didn’t understand that I was unwell.” As he started to recall his experiences in general needs accommodation, Patrick’s jovial tone noticeably changed and he turned his head away from us and stared out of the window. “I was regularly called names, and things were written about me on the side of the flat. They even left dog mess outside the door and posted it through the letter box. Nobody took the time to get to know me there.”
Listening to him, and watching his body language change, I felt so sorry that this gentle man had had to go through such terrible times. I can only imagine how lonely and scared he must have felt when he was being targeted. As I was thinking, Patrick’s happy tone snapped back as he quickly changed the subject.
Having lived with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar for most of his adult life, Patrick proceeded to give us some tips on the qualities needed for people working in mental health.
“You need to be a good listener, patient and kind,”
“You need to be a good listener, patient and kind,” he explained. “When you’re working with people with mental ill health, you’re dealing with the mind – and you can’t see what’s going on. It’s not like having a physical injury like a broken arm or leg – you can’t put a plaster on the mind so you need the qualities that enable you to get to know somebody and understand what they’re going through.”
As part of his diagnosis, Patrick has six ‘off-shoots’ to deal with; “I have to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, mood swings, personality disorder and paranoia,” he said – counting them off on his fingers, “that’s more than a handful.”
With all of this in mind, I asked Patrick what his coping mechanisms are.
“I love my music, going for a walk is good, and eating well helps too. When I’m feeling stressed, a cup of tea and a chat always helps. I can make friends really easily and chatting with people helps a great deal. Sometimes all I need is a hot drink and that sorts me.”
Patrick was born and raised just a stone’s throw from Mallow Court and he told me how this has helped him over the years saying, “Moving back to Mallow Court was like coming home and I feel settled here.”
Neil explained that when Mallow Court was funded by Supporting People, there was an expectation that customers would move on from the scheme within two years. But now that it’s a MyPlace scheme run by Bromford, that has all changed, meaning Patrick doesn’t need to worry about his future.
Neil said; "If Patrick is well enough to move on in the future, then brilliant. If not, that’s fine too – he’ll have a home here for as long as he needs it. It’s all about whatever is right for Patrick at that point in his life."
If you, or anybody you know could benefit from living at one of our MyPlace schemes, please click on the link below to find out more.