In north-west London, mental health charity Brent Mind runs Nucleus – a Lottery-funded “brokerage” service, which provides people experiencing mental distress with the opportunity to get their lives back on track. Nicola is just one of the 250 people whom Nucleus has helped in its first year. Nucleus brokerage worker Jay Sugar tells her story.
“If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know where I would be today,” says Nicola, 38*.
It sounds like an exaggeration, but for Nicola, her current outlook and prospects really do show how far she has come.
Nicola grew up in Mexico and came to the UK when she was 17 to study. She’s been here ever since. She married an Englishman but is now divorced.
A few years ago Nicola was made redundant. She found it difficult to get another job and fell into depression, exacerbated by anxiety and loss of self-confidence. She was finding it difficult to pay her rent and was facing eviction.
Nicola went to a local housing and resettlement service funded by Brent Council in north-west London. It’s there Nucleus runs a weekly drop-in surgery and it was there that we met.
My role is as a brokerage worker. I meet with people experiencing mental distress and give them the tools to take back control over their own lives. I inform people of their options, assist with personal action planning, and work with them to achieve their goals.
“When I first met Jay, I was desperate,” says Nicola. “I found out about the service from a friend who said that someone could listen to me, give me advice and some support.
“I wanted a way out of the mess I was in. I was homeless, had been diagnosed with depression, was very tearful and wanted to move on.
“Jay listened to me. That meant so much. I will never forget his first words – ‘You are not alone anymore’.
“For the first time, in a long time, I had somebody to talk to, somebody who listened and who didn’t rush me.
“I was homeless at the time, living in a hostel in central London. The place was nice but the people were varied. I didn’t like having to share facilities – toilet, kitchen. It was unhygienic.”
Nucleus signposted Nicola to a resettlement worker, with whom she made an appointment and was offered the support she needed.
“It was thanks to Jay and Nucleus that I now have my studio flat where I have my own kitchen where I can cook and it is clean.
“I also love swimming. I am from Mexico and would swim everyday there but when I came to England I missed it so much. Jay signed me up for the local centre and now I would swim three or four times a week. This has helped me so much.”
Nicola has also undertaken various training programmes and workshops geared towards gaining paid employment. She now works as an administrator.
“I’ve always said ‘I am a survivor’ but without Nucleus I do not know where I would be today. For sure, I know I would have gone down and down and I would be in a far worse situation.
“I’m so thankful to Jay and appreciate his help so much. I feel so much better now that I have even started to give up smoking.”
(*Not her real name)
Did you enjoy reading Jay’s blog? Has a funded project helped turn your life around? Leave your comments below or join the conversation on Twitter @biglotteryfund.
Sindi became a young carer when she was just seven years old, taking on the huge responsibility of looking after her ill mother. Now aged 21, Sindi shares her experience of growing up as a young carer and how, in the face of adversity, she is now embarking on an exciting career path.
At the age of seven, my family and I migrated to the UK from Albania. It was an extremely unsettling and stressful time as we could not speak the language and had not established a support network. I recall constantly moving.
My mum’s life experiences prior to moving to the UK, and the experience of moving to a novel environment, took its toll on her. She developed depression and suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. She would be in and out of hospital and when home, she would be bed bound.
Without knowing it, I began to care for her and was a young carer from the age of seven. Being the eldest of two children, all responsibility fell on me.
My situation failed to improve and my caring responsibilities continued, further deepened and remained unnoticed. I had to grow up extremely quickly and soon came to the realisation that I was the backbone to my family and that it was a struggle for them to function without my help.
My dedication to do well at school overrode my adversities and my hard work proved successful as I completed my GCSEs and attained good grades.
I went on to be accepted at university but due to my caring responsibilities, I was unable to move home. For the first two years I was commuting five hours per day to attend lectures and use the resources at university.
In 2010, my parents separated and, to my relief, my mum’s health began to improve. I moved out of the family home to concentrate on my studies. In 2012 I graduated university with a 2.1 in Psychology.
I began to look for further opportunities where I could acquire new skills. I came across an internship programme at The Children’s Society, working as a policy and media Intern. I was attracted to working on the Young Carers in Focus (YCiF) project. It is funded by Big Lottery Fund and is an exciting opportunity for young carers to communicate, share stories and raise awareness about the things that matter most to them.
So far, the internship has been extremely beneficial for my future career prospects. I have been able to learn a great deal about policies relating to young people and have also had the opportunity to meet other young carers and see how the YCiF project helps them.
Since starting my internship, I have sought out employment opportunities and recently found out that I have been successful in getting a job at the Cabinet Office.
The afflictions of life have not hindered my performance, if anything, they have taught me to be more tenacious, to make the most out of every opportunity that comes my way and to appreciate everything I have.
What do you think of Sindi’s Carers Week blog? Are you inspired by her story? Leave your comments below or join the Carers Week conversation of Twitter using #CarersWeek
Carers Week is a UK-wide annual awareness campaign. Its aim is to improve the lives of carers and the people they care for. In this guest blog Hatty Berry, 16, talks about life growing up while caring for her mum, Shona. She has been working with Fixers, a charity funded by the Big Lottery Fund, which helps young people aged 16 to 25 fix the issues that fire them up.
With the help of Fixers, Hatty made the film embedded in this blog to show teachers, social workers and other professionals why some children may misbehave because of the pressures they are under at home. She has also been named as Carer of the Year at the Child of Sussex Awards in recognition of her hard work.
I’ve been caring for my mum since I was 11 years old. She has a condition called Fibromyalgia, which leaves her with severe muscle pain over her entire body. I help her get ready for the day, getting her out of bed, making sure she takes her medication, helping her bath, doing her hair and get her moving around the house before I go to school.
Most evenings I have to cook dinner for us as well. She can be very forgetful because of all the medication that she takes, so I spend a lot of time helping her find where she has put her purse, phone, shoes, or cup of tea!
As it is only me and my mum in the house, sometimes it does get quite difficult and I do feel quite alone; there’s no one else to help me. That is a very big stress on my life and on occasion it has made me behave badly at school.
I think a lot of people, especially teachers and other students at my school, have been quick to judge me and have assumed, when I am late or tired in lessons, that I simply couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed on time or that I care so little about my future that I stay up late.
I want people to know that isn’t the case – there is a reason behind my behaviour and the same could be true for all young carers.
I want people to think twice and not judge children or teenagers, especially those who might be caring for a sick family member, until they’ve actually sat down and spoken to them and asked if there are any problems or if there is anything they can do to help.
To illustrate my point, I have made a film with Fixers that I hope will lead to greater understanding. The film follows the story of three teenagers who misbehave in school. It shows their school day and then gives a glimpse of what is going behind the scenes in their personal lives to make them behave anti-socially.
I hope that through the film, people will think twice before they judge a young person, and actually consider the reasons behind someone’s behaviour. They could be carrying a responsibility beyond their years.
What do you think of Hatty’s blog and the film which Fixers helped her create? Join the Carers Week conversation on Twitter using #carersweek or leave your comments below.