Recovery Practitioner Kemal with a local police officer outside the Newtown centre
John Scott is the chairman of the mental health charity Rekindle in Newtown. At a recent fundraising concert for the charity, which supports young people aged 16 to 25 who are struggling with mental distress, he said:â€œThe trustees and staff know from experience that early intervention can help many of these young people avoid or recover from the social dislocation that can result from mental illness.
There are more than 110 active clients, and they are referred by all the various agencies in Newtown. There are two full time recovery practitioners (Diane Williams and Kemal Keeble), one of whom is a qualified mental health nurse, and two regular volunteers. They operate from converted shop premises in the centre of Newtown, which makes them accessible to this client group.
Diane (left) with a client
The stories here are examples of what can be done, and there are many more similar ones. The right help at the right time can stop these young people from a possibly irreversible descent into self-destructive behaviour. It is wonderful to see young people starting to enjoy their lives again.â€� Jess Foster
At the age of 18 I was living in a homeless hostel and felt there was no use in living any more. I struggled with the pressures of sixth form and trying to earn a living so attempted suicide multiple times. Initially I was under the care of adult services but didnâ€™t feel as though I actually mattered to them and was made to feel as though my problems werenâ€™t bad enough. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Diane at Small Steps and I was finally on the road to recovery. I was given all the time I needed, whether it be for just a chat or to help me better my life. Feeling like I mattered and being listened to changed my life around. I stopped self-harming, returned to sixth form, applied for university with Dianeâ€™s help and even began caring about my own wellbeing again. When I got my place at university Diane got me a grant so that I was able to buy everything I needed and to any other person I would then look like a typical student, not someone who had just been homeless. I am now graduating this summer, have a job and strong friendships. My life is now at a good point and itâ€™s thanks to all the help and mentorship I had from Diane and Small Steps.
My name is Megan Tudor and I am an associate trustee for Rekindle’s Small Steps Project. I began as a client of the project when abuse was identified in my family home. I had to leave home and faced the difficulty of finding a roof over my head. Diane and Kemal worked tirelessly to help me and although they came across many difficulties they never gave up on me. I was in a very dark place and tried to end my life on a daily basis; I couldn’t find a reason to carry on. I went from living in a horrific environment to only having the clothes on my back and no roof over my head. I was also suffering from an eating disorder and refused to eat or drink anything. The Small Steps Project was the only organisation that recognised there was abuse and actually listened. I had seen Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), 16+ team, social workers and spent a year in a psychiatric hospital and none of them listened to what I was saying. Diane and Kemal let me have as much time as I needed and listened to every word I said and actually did something about it. I was supported on a daily basis to stay alive on top of trying to find stable accommodation.
I was supported by the Small Steps Project to find a reason to live, gain tools to cope and to slowly overcome my eating disorder. They helped me to get back into education and I finally started to feel like I was breaking free from the chains that held me back for so many years. I was no longer walking down the narrow lonely corridors of hospitals or dancing with my demons. I am now living my dream, halfway through my qualification, working part time and offering support to the other clients of the Small Steps Project.
I was 16 when I first came to Small Steps. I was living with the fact I had quite a bad temper but didnâ€™t want to admit to it. I didnâ€™t want to feel ashamed. It got to the point where I got pretty hard to live with, my anger was getting worse and simple things would set it off. It got to the point where shouting turned into me deliberately hitting anything hard, just to try and feel something other than anger. I was also damaging my hands. My parents and I realised I couldnâ€™t go on doing what I was doing, so I got in touch with Small Steps.
It took a long time for me to understand that I was adjusting from being a young person being told â€œwhat to doâ€� and the new pressures of having to make decisions about life. â€œWho I want to becomeâ€� and â€œwhat I want to achieveâ€�. Small Steps helped me with this, it was the first time I had someone who I could speak to and someone who understood how I was feeling.
I felt I only had the one overwhelming emotion which was anger. I was always waiting to be challenged and at the first hurdle I would usually just lash out! Over time it become apparent that there was more to life than just this feeling of anger. Things changed for me and now I saw things differently; I could stand back and assess the moment and realise that anger was not the correct response. All of this was only really possible because of the continued support I received from the Small Steps Project.
I am in a different place today. I think more positively about what I would like to achieve. I am now 19 years old and aspiring to be a Royal Marine commando, which is a completely opposite mind-set. My mental and physical toughness has developed through training. I understand how to take care of my body and wellbeing. My relationship with parents is very different today, we are able to talk about things more openly and have become closer as a family. I realise now how I have a lot more to give in life and that it all starts with you allowing these changes to happen.
Jess and Sam’s stories also feature in this short video about the Small Steps Project:
Stop press: Rekindle volunteer Sarah Napper was recently nominated for the Powys Volunteer of the Year Award 2018 and reached the shortlist. Sarah has been volunteering for three and a half years and her role involves welcoming clients and professionals to the project. She does this despite having her own bipolar diagnosis. Sarah is around the same age as those seeking help so she has a special empathy and understanding of their problems and is a good listener. Diane said: “Sarah promotes and empowers young people to believe they can achieve anything in life despite any obstacles that come their way.”