Sharing and contributing with others helped reshape my mental health

Here we read the story of Eva Williams who shares her experience of the Recovery college classes based at The Whiteleaf Centre in Aylesbury.

Sharing and contributing with others helped reshape my mental health

Remember that if you are struggling with your mental health or feeling suicidal then help is available over the phone, by text or email. Find the links for support at the bottom of this article.

I started taking Recovery College classes at a very dark time in my life. I have struggled with my mental health for years, but after a relapse at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown I had become increasingly suicidal, and I saw no way out.

My depression meant I had no hobbies or interests any more, was unable to work, and focused entirely on getting through the days safely.

At first the classes gave me simply something to do, something to take my mind off the relentless dark thoughts and urges in my head, and a way to socialize in a manageable way.

However, after becoming more confident with the staff and students, I began to contribute more, and felt my mind become engaged. I took classes ranging from art, pets and nature, to safety planning, wellness and connectivity.

I gained insight into ways of coping with my mental health struggles, from listening to others talk about their own experiences, as well as through exercises and discussions facilitated by the staff running the classes.

Alongside learning about ways to cope with my mental health, I also particularly enjoyed classes which did not have this focus, but rather discussed other topics, like art, the environment, consumerism and nature, to list a few.

It meant that I could think about something other than mental health, which was really refreshing at a time where my mental illness had eclipsed almost everything else in my life.

One of the courses that was particularly helpful was about staying safe during tough times. I was coming out of hospital and trying to find ways to keep myself safe in the community, and the course gave me so much insight in to what works for me and reminded me why I was trying to keep myself safe and alive, and the things I had to live for.

By the end of the course I had a safety plan that actually felt right to me, and that I knew would somewhat resonate with me even during the depths of depression and suicidality.

Whilst I have had tough times since, the ideas that were discussed on the course have stuck with me even in those moments and remind me that I am capable of living a meaningful life, and that there is always hope.

Non-urgent advice: Support

Remember help is out there if you are struggling with your mental health or you are feeling suicidal.

  • Speak to a mental health nurse by calling 111 or visiting
  • Samaritans – Call 116 123 or visit their website
  • Shout – 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service
  • Papyrus: Prevention of Young Suicide – 0800 068 41 41 or visit their website
  • Oxfordshire CRUSE provides early support for people bereaved by suicide – 01865 245398
  • A bereavement by suicide support service is provided by Buckinghamshire Mind

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Published: 10 September 2021