Photo of a teacher writing back to school on a blackboard
21 Dec 2021

Michelle's Able Futures story

Special needs teacher Michelle, from Bradford, is looking forward to starting the new term at school more than she ever has before. Thanks to Able Futures she feels much better equipped to deal with her worries and anxieties which have hung over her throughout her teaching career.

Michelle, 35, has worked at the special needs secondary school for six years and was feeling increasingly overwhelmed with her job before she was introduced to the Able Futures programme. Funded by the Department of Work and Pensions, Able Futures provides free mental health support and regular appointments with a mental health specialist; a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant (VRC).

“I was feeling overwhelmed with everything,” says Michelle. “And it was impacting on my confidence and abilities at work. I wasn’t in an awful position mentally – I was still able to do my job, I just wasn’t hugely happy with it. Able Futures prevented me from going downhill. People think that you need to be at a point of crisis before you can get help, but that’s not the case.”

Michelle had just finished a short life-coaching programme through work before realising she needed more support. After her mum told her about Able Futures, she was able to sign up easily online.

Throughout her nine months on the programme, Michelle received regular support from three different VRCs, ending with Siobhan Cooper. The VRCs gave Michelle practical advice ranging from setting reminders to drink enough water throughout the day, to keeping a diary to identify negative thought processes.

She explains, “The diary helped me to realise that it was just one element of my day that would have been bad, not the whole day. It’s a really good way to stop a spiral of negative thoughts. It was all very practical support which felt achievable.”

Alongside the specific tools she learned, Michelle thought the overall service was structured well. Initially receiving regular contact from the VRCs, Michelle said their texts and phone calls were gradually reduced leaving her confident to use independent self-care.

“It’s a reflection of how much it has helped me that I can say I’ve just finished the busy end of summer term better than any other year,” says Michelle.

“Above all, I think the biggest help was having someone to listen to my worries and to take me seriously. Everything I said was treated with utmost respect. I felt incredibly supported throughout the whole time.”

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