A view of our Get Together for service users

Speaker at service users get together

A personal perspective on our first ever service users' Get Together, held on World Mental Health Day, October 2019. Guest speaker was Sophie Cook

There’s a man called Nick (this is not a joke, by the way). His life is so shrouded in the darkness of despair that he feels he is trapped in a big, dark hole.

No matter who goes by – friends, his GP, even his priest – they cannot help him get out despite their best intentions or the prescriptions and sermons they throw down to him.

He’s beginning to think he’ll never get out of the dark hole when a friend comes along and says: “Hey, Nick, is that you down in that hole?” He climbs down and says: “You can get out of here, all you have to do is go to Mind and after a while start on their peer mentoring course.”

And the two of them climb out. Nick starts going to Mind and when he starts on the peer mentoring course, he finds that, sure enough, his life has changed completely for the better.

This was the story told by the real Nick at the first Mind service user Get Together to mark World Mental Health Day, held at Field Place, Worthing.

Nick has now moved on from Mind and is doing all sorts of training in the mental health sphere, his life having changed immeasurably. Naturally, he thoroughly recommends the peer mentoring course!

Listening to his story, your allegedly 'ace' reporter was feeling a bit like he was in a hole, too, having been tasked with finding and approaching six strangers for the potted interviews that go with this blog. My anxiety levels were going through the roof but I had the great good luck that my key worker was there and was able to help me through the worst of my fears.

It helped, too, that there were so many great activities (although, given my roving reporter brief, I had to just dip into these). They included two very successful workshops on suicide prevention, the theme of World Mental Health Day, two very popular art workshops and the great fun of bowls tuition on the bowling green. And after a lovely lunch, we had a terrific session of laughing yoga (yes, I kid you not) which all involved enjoyed very much.

In the morning, the main speaker was the author and broadcaster Sophie Cook, who became the first transgender woman to work in the premier league as official photographer to AFC Bournemouth following her transition from Steve to Sophie in 2015.

She spoke very movingly, and funnily, too, about her experiences as a suicide survivor and her battles with her own mental health. “My philosophy is that I will die but not today,” she said. “And when I die I will look back and say it [suicide] never happened.” She has the words “not today” tattooed on her wrist.

She also said: “I always wear a starfish necklace to remind me that if you only save one starfish at a time, you are going to save a lot of starfish.”

Earlier, members of the young people’s group at Littlehampton told of how much it had helped them to gain self-esteem and make new friends. I and many others found their speeches very inspirational.

The whole day, sponsored by the local financial services firm Equiniti, was an unmitigated success. And by the end, I had definitely climbed out of my little hole.

By David, Littlehampton


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