Chemist Laura felt unable to open up to family and friends when she started to find all aspects of her life difficult. The 31-year-old from York, who was juggling a full-time job with studying part time for a Masters degree, broke down when she finally found someone who could help.
Now, after nine months advice and support from Able Futures through the Access To Work Mental Health Support Service, her life has been transformed.
“I was finding things very difficult in my home life, my work life, my personal life, and I was not very confident,” remembers Laura. “I was feeling isolated and different and really struggling to manage a lot of things while living alone which can make pressures seem amplified. I didn’t have such a good support network as I’ve built around me now, I was nervous, anxious, quite depressed, feeling a bit lost in my career and worthless.”
Laura applied for support from Able Futures, which provides free mental health advice and guidance to anyone in work. Funded by the Department of Work and Pensions, participants have regular appointments with a mental health specialist, a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant (VRC).
“I burst into tears during my first meeting with my VRC Kev when he was asking me questions,” says Laura. “I hadn’t felt comfortable talking to family and friends about the issues I was having and it was almost overwhelming to be able up to open up to someone and have that external, unbiased support.”
Laura had monthly conversations with Kev and learned a lot about herself, identifying her strengths and different ways of doing things. “The experience was really valuable in identifying areas I could improve. Learning new tools and tricks such as breathing techniques, journalling, coping mechanisms and thought patterns was really constructive,” she adds.
Laura was concerned that she wasn’t being paid a fair wage for her work as a Production Development Chemist, designing products which optimise agriculture. After taking part in the Able Futures Programme, Laura felt confident enough to negotiate a pay rise and a promotion. "I feel a lot happier now and I’m in a position I can’t quite believe financially and career-wise,” she says. “I’m more sociable and I’m enjoying the things I do like and doing less of the things I don’t like, recognising I don’t have to be like everyone else and it’s okay to be different.”
Laura, who enjoys motorcycling, drawing, reading and travelling, has nearly finished her degree and is now in a supportive and loving relationship. “Friends and family see me as a much more positive person now, I was really hard on myself before and now I worry a lot less,” she says. “This has meant the world to me and has changed my life for the better."
“The Able Futures experience for me has been huge – when you don’t feel like anyone can understand and someone gives you a helping hand up, it really means a lot.”