In the last two years, I have had to avail myself of the services of three charities: Together, Citizens Advice, and Samaritans. Today, I’d like to talk about how they helped me.
(Note: I have linked each of their websites in the subtitle for each section.)
Together is a mental health charity that works with people with mental health issues to help them in their recovery.
The specific element of Together that I accessed was attending their 12-week Recovery Star programme. This programme is made up of educational and supportive group workshops, where they coach service users on different skills including managing emotions, dealing with relationships, getting (back) into work or volunteering, and much more.
I found the workshops so helpful because they found the middle ground between validating our experiences and encouraging and teaching us to find new, healthier ways to journey through recovery and life. Also, as it is a group setting, it gave me the opportunity to talk to others in similar situations.
Although Citizens Advice is not specifically a mental health charity, I have sought help from Citizens Advice on two occasions: once for support in appealing my Personal Independence Payment (PIP) decision, and once when I was applying for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
When I applied for PIP, I was awarded four points, and hence declined. The first stage of the appeal process is to write back to the decision-maker and ask them to reconsider your case (this is called a Mandatory Reconsideration). In this letter, you have to detail why you think their decision was wrong. However, I was in such a bad state, and the thought of having to go through everything all over again by myself was just too overwhelming.
I had an appointment with a lovely CA Advisor, who was just so supportive and friendly, and she basically took my forms off me and helped me to formulate the letter I needed to send. She typed it up and even sent it off for me. On receiving the letter, the decision was overturned and I was granted PIP.
Later on, when I lost my job due to mental illness, I had to apply for ESA. Anyone who has seen the forms that you have to fill in will know how long and overwhelming they are. The language in the forms is not always clear, and it feels like they’re trying to trip you up on your answers.
I had another appointment with a different but equally friendly and supportive advisor at Citizens Advice, who spent about two hours with me, helping me to fill out the forms. She wrote them for me because my brain fog was so bad, and she helped me to word things that I was struggling to put across. On receipt of my ESA forms, my application was successful.
I genuinely couldn’t have got through the distress of both of these applications without the support of Citizens Advice. They were so understanding and patient with me, and they couldn’t have done more to make me feel comfortable in what was a very upsetting situation. For that, I am so grateful.
I have called the Samaritans a number of times over the last couple of years. In all honesty, they’ve saved my life on more than one occasion.
I first rang the Samaritans in the middle of the night, after having been well and truly let down by the Access/Crisis Team. The man on the phone allowed me to vent for about an hour, and all the while he stayed calm and talked me through my issues. I felt genuinely heard, and my immediate suicidal thoughts faded to the point that I was able to sleep.
After this, I didn’t bother ringing the Access Team anymore, because I knew they’d be useless, and Samaritans would be much more helpful. I just needed someone to hear me, and that’s just what they did.
If you are in a position to support these charities, I would 100% recommend that you do so. Their services are invaluable and such a crucial resource for those of us struggling with mental health issues.
Have you accessed support from any of these charities, or any others? Which charities would you recommend for mental health support? Let me know in the comments.