The 10th of October marks World Mental Health Day. This year's theme is Mental Health for All, a message that could not be more relevant than right now. 2020 has been a challenging year with the COVID-19 pandemic and lengthy lockdown taking their toll on people's mental health. 

In 2019-2020 POhWER supported over 46,000 people with mental health conditions through our advocacy, information, advice and empowerment services. 

Here are three stories which show how POhWER advocates have supported people living with mental health conditions to have their voices heard and feel empowered to stand up for their rights and make a positive difference in their lives.

Charlie’s story

Young asian man - sadCharlie is 23 and was referred to POhWER advocacy by his grandmother Rosie.

Charlie lives alone and has a good relationship with Rosie who has been his only support since he lost his mother aged 10. Sadly she committed suicide and it was Charlie who found her. Charlie was diagnosed with mental health issues, PTSD, OCD and ADHD. He has often turned to alcohol to help deal with his issues. Over the years Charlie has been referred to various services but feels they have all let him down. He has been in and out of housing due to this lack of support and his behaviour which has caused problems with his neighbours.

POhWER advocate, Andy contacted Charlie and explained the service and support he could provide. Charlie had a meeting coming up with his housing provider and asked Andy to support him as he feared he would be evicted again. The neighbours had been complaining about loud music when he had friends round and his anti-social behaviour when he had been drinking.

At the meeting, with Andy’s support, Charlie explained his history and that he had never received the support he needed to deal with his mental health issues and drinking. Rather than evicting him the housing provider decided to give him a final warning. Charlie said that the anti-social behaviour would stop.

After the meeting Charlie said it had been reassuring to have Andy with him; he had felt supported and that he had a voice. Andy helped Charlie to get a referral to the community mental health team. He is also receiving bereavement support and support with his alcohol issues.

Andy made sure that Charlie knew how to contact POhWER if he needed to access the service again in the future. Charlie was grateful for the support he had received.

Lucille’s Story

Thoughtful women in her 50Lucille is in her fifties and has anxiety and depression as well as ongoing poor physical health. She lives alone with limited family contact and recently lost some of her support due to funding changes.

Lucille was referred to POhWER for help to access appropriate support services and treatment to improve her mental and physical health. James was assigned as her advocate.

Together James and Lucille reviewed all her support needs. Lucille told him about her concerns around her mental health and how historic issues continue to have a huge negative affect on her. They discussed the different support options that Lucille could choose from. One programme which Lucille was keen to contact was a project offering a range of awareness and empowerment programmes for women affected by domestic abuse.

James also agreed to support Lucille to communicate better with medical professionals including attending a GP appointment to discuss access to appropriate treatment. Lucille felt the GP appointment was a huge success as she was empowered to speak honestly and had the confidence to discuss her support needs. She was grateful to James for his support saying: “Thank you so much, I really don’t think I could have spoken about everything without you being there”

Following the GP appointment, Lucille has been able to address more of her worries and concerns and to ask for help. Her GP has agreed to look into additional pain management and made a referral to the Community Mental Health Team for support to address her poor mental health.

James and Lucille are going to meet with the domestic abuse project to discuss what support might be available. Lucille has arranged a follow up appointment with her GP and is considering whether she can attend this appointment alone or would like further support.

Wilfred’s Story

man in his 30Wilfred is in his mid-thirties and had been detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act. He had been supported by the Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) service when he had been sectioned before.

Catrina, a POhWER advocate, recognised Wilfred during a visit to the ward and offered to support him again. Wilfred was very concerned with spiritual matters but felt that he wasn’t being taken seriously because people thought his religious views were part of his mental illness.  He had applied for a Mental Health Tribunal to be discharged from the section so that he could be treated as an informal patient and spend more time with his family.

Catrina wasn’t available to attend Wilfred’s tribunal, but supported him to make notes about his views, which he could read out at the tribunal. With Wilfred’s consent, Catrina referred him to the hospital’s Spiritual Care service. She also agreed to support Wilfred at a ward round with his psychiatrist.

At the tribunal Wilfred read out the notes that Catrina had supported him to make and was discharged from section. He agreed to remain in hospital informally and at his ward round Catrina supported him to discuss how he would use his time off of the ward. A chaplain from the Spiritual Care service made contact with Wilfred to discuss his thoughts about spiritual matters.

Wilfred thanked Catrina and said the notes had helped him to be discharged from section.  Wilfred was also glad that he had been able to work with an advocate who he knew from his previous hospital admission. Catrina gave him the contact details for the community advocacy service in case he needed support in the future.