Working as a carer was only ever meant to be a stop-gap for media and culture graduate Toni Lawrence. But the 25-year-old from Leeds was experiencing anxiety due to her stressful job and the long hours she was working. On top of that, she was feeling depressed about where her life was heading. Now, thanks to Able Futures, Toni has not only been given support to look after her mental health, but she has also been put on the path to a rewarding career.
Able Futures, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, provides up to nine months of free mental health support to people in work. Participants have regular appointments with a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant (VRC) specialising in mental health.
Toni was working for a home care company when she first contacted the programme. “I am always anxious to a certain extent but it’s usually manageable,” she explains. “I was getting so anxious and stressed, it was no longer under control. I get tics when I’m anxious and they were getting so bad that I just needed everything to calm down a bit. When I first made contact with Able Futures I was feeling depressed as well.”
Another mental wellbeing service she approached at the same time had a long waiting list. Thankfully, Able Futures was able to arrange the support she needed without delay.
Toni began working with VRC Janet Firth at the start of the programme and was later helped by VRC Kevin Critchley.
“They told me to ground myself and try doing breathing exercises, which helped a lot with my tics,” says Toni. “I never really breathe properly and that’s part of why I have tics. I was given breathing strategies and grounding advice and they told me to listen to meditation music. I was also told to note down exactly how I was feeling, writing about the triggers and when I started getting worse. It’s been really helpful and I’m so glad I did it.”
As well as giving her the tools to manage her anxiety, Janet arranged for Toni to have careers advice. “I was unsure of where I wanted to head next and which path in life to take, I felt lost and stuck in a place where I wasn’t happy,” says Toni. She had a careers advice meeting and took a personality test to help her choose which type of job she should be applying for. It soon became clear that teaching was the right career for Toni, as she wanted to work with young people and use her caring nature.
Toni is now doing a one-year PGCE teacher training course and has quit her job at the care company. To help make ends meet, she is working as a self-employed home carer but is on reduced hours. Being in control of her own workload has reduced her stress levels and she is excited to be working towards a career in education.
“I feel so much better because I have decided which life path I want to be on, I’m not lost and wasting time,” she says. “I’m feeling so much more positive about the future.”