Let’s talk about mental health

By David Gledhill, Marketing and Communications lead

We need to talk about mental health.

For some peculiar reason, we feel comfortable swapping stories about physical illnesses, particularly in Winter when the latest virus strikes, but never mental health

We skirt around it using vanilla phrases such as I’m feeling a bit stressed or I am a bit down today, but whilst we would be happy to share details of a visit to the doctor, we would draw the line at discussing a visit to a counsellor or therapist.

In recent years, mental health has been taken off the agenda and out of the communities that traditionally looked out for people struggling – we all had a ‘mad’ Mary or a permanently tipsy John in our childhoods, but more recently they have been pushed to the fringes of society.

We have become more judgemental and yet we all experience some mental health issues during our lives, often through suffering loss or grief which can take years to surface.

Loss is a thread that runs through all our lives and can manifest itself when we least expect it, from an ageing point of view it could be the loss of a loved one, the loss of physical well being the loss of self-respect.

No matter how it surfaces, it takes a community to tackle it, and that is where the Daybreak Learning Community in Paignton comes in, providing the support that so many people need.

We are all on a spectrum of anxiety and depression, and we all move up and down the scale, as life throws everything at us – it might be anything – recession, lack of jobs for life, unemployment, housing, Brexit even. Rarely are we in total control of our own destinies.

Daybreak and Ageing Well combine the power of ‘me two’ putting people together to provide the support that they need for each other.

Loneliness and isolation can be debilitating forcing some into a spiral of depression and yet as so many people have found through Daybreak there are others in the same position. Putting them together can be a powerful part of the healing.

Courses run year round and cover issues such as depression, anxiety, self-esteem and assertiveness and self-harm and are aimed at not just sufferers but the family, friends and professionals that support them.

The depth of people’s stories and their resilience, despite everything that is thrown at them, continues to amaze the staff and volunteers as groups of people share incredible qualities and strengths for the good of each other.

When Paul arrived at Daybreak, he had been suffering from anxiety and depression for years and had been on antidepressants for a long time, but now he has become a volunteer and helps others overcome similar challenges.

In his words: “Daybreak is better than all the medications put together. My hope for the future is to help other people coming to Daybreak to the best of my ability ad to learn myself as I go along.”

A craft group which was originally started by staff at Daybreak has helped many find an outlet for their personal expression and through shared interest has introduced a structure to their lives. It has been so successful that the group now run it themselves.

Gordon was put in touch with Daybreak through Ageing Well having slipped into a cycle of isolation and depression and was encouraged to take part in a drop-in crafts session where he rediscovered his love of art.

“It brought me out of my shell. When I was doing art at Daybreak it was good – there were people of all different abilities, men and women. It’s a whole group of us that can work and befriend each other. Sometimes all you want to do is have a chat.

“It really stops you being lost people. And you are someone – you’ve got to have a belief in that. I’m not lonely when I’m drawing, only when I stop. You’ve got someone to talk to and do something with. I started picking up my sketch book again and doing little things.”

Daybreak and Ageing well are building a community of hundreds if not thousands of people across the bay, who can say they have had issues but are now looking forward not back. They are no longer hidden, they are part of a resilient community each looking out for others.Take one woman, who lost her son in traumatic and tragic circumstances who is now returning to Daybreak to help run the next loss and grief course because she wants to help others in the same way she was helped when she most needed it.

If you need help or know someone who does then find our more about the Daybreak Learning Community at:  https://www.steponecharity.co.uk/community/daybreak. Or contact Jane Eastwood jane.eastwood@steponecharity.co.uk / 01803 557801.