We provide a pathway of supported accommodation options for people with mental health and housing needs in Oxfordshire. Sarah Palmer, an Oxfordshire Mind client, talks about her experience with Oxfordshire Mind Housing:
I moved to Mind Supported Housing having struggled a long time with my mental health, particularly hitting a tough time in my life after my father and brother died. My life fell apart and struggling to keep afloat with life, the chance came to live in a self-contained flat supported by Mind in Didcot. It was hard to leave my mother due to a traumatic time in my family but I needed to live somewhere and somewhere independent from the family home to; recover, heal and learn to live independently again so I could slowly move on and piece my life together again. Mind Housing kindly gave me that opportunity and I will be forever grateful.
Life at Mind Supported Housing
When I first moved in I was immediately struck by the wonderful space inside the flats which I would soon discover would give me the space to create a home to recover and heal in. During my first year, I focused mainly on creating a home to create a recovery environment, busying myself up the local charity shops and gradually finding stuff to make a home. The flat consisted of a separate bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living area so I was kept busy building a home. I had weekly visits from the amazing Support Workers at Oxfordshire Mind whom after the initial settling in period of us sorting out administrative necessities of living there, were quick to realise my needs of supporting me. Support sessions were varied and on a weekly basis. Support sessions involved for example, taking me into Didcot town and getting me out and about. Not only did I need to make a home but I had become very reclusive so taking me out around the town helped me leave the flat and feel part of the community in Didcot. I was also encouraged, in a very thoughtful way, to branch out from Didcot to go to the Mind Supported House in Cholsey to, socialise with peers and attend the Christmas party for example. During this time I also visited Oxford. I had a lovely chance to spend time in Oxford with my amazing Support Worker who really helped me integrate into the community. It was interesting and fun. Recovery although intense can be fun and it’s important to have time out from recovery work and find things to feed your soul.
The Support Workers were also very efficient in carrying out, regular individual support plans, regular health and safety checks and although are not there as counsellors were always happy to listen if anything was on my mind or to provide signposting to any other support agencies or courses that would be of benefit.
Alongside the flat, was my own garden too. I took great pleasure creating a garden and cooking from produce grown.
In my second year I needed to focus on other areas of my recovery and I was perfectly situated as the Mind Supported flat is only a short walk into Didcot town and the train station. I was accessing services to address areas of my recovery so my flat now became a flat to now do some serious internal work on myself. Again I continued to have the regular support from the Support Workers to help me keep getting out of the flat, getting into the community and to keep an eye on me in case my mental health took a dive.
I was committed to doing the work and had the support of the Support Workers every step of the way. Ultimately it is you that has to take responsibility for your own recovery but it’s an incredibly intense time and knowing I had the support and kindness of the Support Workers made it that much easier and comforting in what could be a challenging time.
The intensity of my recovery eased somewhat and I began to look outside of myself a little more and I was able to start to build my confidence by getting involved with various activities, one amazing activity being cooking, with one of the Support Workers. I really enjoyed finding a new passion which involved cooking from scratch. Our lessons were, regular, well organised and fun. He provided inspiring lessons and was adept at knowing what recipes to cook and carrying them out in an organised and inspirational way. I have taken these lessons on in my new home and regularly cook from the recipes we learnt in the support sessions.
I also had support in going to a great yoga class and any other interests I expressed an interest in, then the Support Workers were only to happy to take me there initially to support engagement as I had lost a lot of confidence or nudge me in any areas they thought I might be interested in, for example an art competition run by Mind.
Another area where I got support from Mind was that they recognised that I would enjoy being a Service User Representative and I sat on several interview panels which I really enjoyed and it gave me a great sense of pride and fulfilment. I felt I was giving back some of my experiences and that can be so rewarding. I also felt I had a sense of purpose which is so important to ones well-being. It was really interesting work and the Mind Managers whom I was working with made me feel so at ease, welcoming and it was a very positive experience.
I was also given vital support by the Support Workers and Better Benefits for Mental Health, as regards to my benefits, for example, applying and getting to very important meetings regarding my benefits and supporting me in the process of applying for benefits. The Support Workers went out of their way to get me to some of the vital appointments and also helped me greatly alongside Better Benefits for Mental health with benefit application.
I also needed to have a hysterectomy whereby the operation date fell when I was still living at Mind Supported Housing. It was a comfort to be able to recover in my then home at Didcot and thank you Mind for allowing that time. I was in serious need to have the operation so although it took a lot out of me was reassuring to me that I could recuperate at the lovely living space at Mind Housing.
I was also encouraged to apply and bid on council property and was thus supported in the moving on process from Mind Supported Housing. I was put in a great position to be able to bid on council property. I am now living in a lovely flat and would not be in this position without the support of the Support Workers and being in Mind Supported Housing so thank you so much! I never thought about the future when I first moved into Mind Supported Housing as I was so focused on recovery work. Living in Mind housing has given me now a second chance in life.
Although I was sad to leave Mind Supported Housing and it was a time I will never forget, Mind and myself, knew I was ready. Well I kind of didn’t realize I was ready as your confidence can be greatly knocked by your mental health experiences but I was given encouragement to nudge me forwards. Although I miss the Support Workers, my ex home, friends I made and Didcot in general, I know it was the right move to keep going forwards. I still go back to Didcot to see friends I made there, still speak to the Support Workers and still attend a Mind Woman’s group run in Didcot. It has taken some adjustment and although it’s been challenging, it was and is a natural adjustment process and I’m starting to think about my future which I feel is a real step forward. I still have to manage my mental health and the acceptance of this will be a lifelong process. I intend to put my experiences back into life in a life affirming and positive way and to help others who have and do go through similar experiences. I very much look forward to doing this.
There were so many positives from living at Mind Supported Housing. I will never forget it and the experience feels like a guiding ship and anchor to steer the rest of my life. There was so much and so many people who supported me that I apologise if I have missed anything or anyone out! You know who you are I hope!