A Basingstoke man whose mental health needs required a referral to a supported housing service has shared his story to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.
James Bowman, 23, moved into Pentire, a Sanctuary Supported Living (SSL) service for people with mental health needs, last August following a period of ill mental health that had peaked in January 2017.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, James travelled from the Basingstoke service to the offices of Sanctuary Group, SSL’s parent organisation, in Worcester to share his experiences with staff over the past 16 months, as well as his perspective as someone with mental health needs.
In a presentation that touched on some of the raw issues posed by his mental health, James also reflected on the positive experiences, such as the rallying of support from Pentire staff and residents alike following the death of his pet rat Joker and the practical ways support helped him with anything from cooking scrambled eggs to searching for work.
James said: “The speech went very well and it was amazing to show everyone the amazing work SSL does, as I wouldn’t be here today without them and Princes Trust – it was just breathtaking.
“Never let anyone hold you back from changing your life for the better so push forward and keep smiling.”
James shared the stage with SSL operations director Sara Keetley, local service manager Cathy Stone and clinical and safeguarding manager Tracy Jardine.
Ruth Stoner, James’ SSL project worker, added: “James is very volunteer-focused and will always give me updates on what he’s doing. He’s utilised his resources and taken up any opportunity offered to him, with this talk being the latest.”
Moving to Pentire provided James, who has a diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder, with an opportunity to draw up a personalised support plan with staff and receive help to manage his condition and pursue a healthy lifestyle.
He said: “Staff here have helped me by being there to talk to when I’m down and giving me information. When there was a break in benefit payments at one point, their advice helped ensure I didn’t fall into arrears.
“They’re also helping me to get healthy and have motivated me to the point where I’m now running 5k every weekend – this has all had a massively positive effect on my mental wellbeing.”
This year has also seen James join the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Youth Commission and take on a role as team leader with The Prince’s Trust. The latter sees him provide mentoring to more than a dozen young people with activities like job hunting, preparing CVs and achieving their qualifications.
Through the trust, he was able to take part in a range of activities with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, including learning first aid, performing water rescues and developing an understanding of fire safety, as well as discussing his involvement on a YouTube video by the service.
Ruth added: “We are so proud of his achievements. In addition to delivering the talk, he’s helped another client at Pentire, who has signed up to the Prince’s Trust – he is an inspiration for sure.”
Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from Monday 14 to Sunday 20 May, is organised by the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing.