Paula's story: How Able Futures support helped her mental health

With difficult family relationships and uncertainty about where she was living affecting her emotional health, Paula from Scotland was struggling to cope. Depression and anxiety had stopped her working and long-term sickness leave had meant she no longer had the feelings of achievement from doing a good job at work to help her confidence and sense of wellbeing.

“I am a support worker for palliative care in the community and I like being there for people. But six months ago I had been off work sick for a while because of the situation with my family, and my depression and anxiety issues,” says Paula. “At one point I just wanted to die, but then I decided that wasn’t happening. I thought I can’t do this any more, and I needed to try anything to get my act together. I thought I was going to lose my job and then I wouldn’t have anything. I saw that before it was too late.”

Paula got support from Able Futures after struggling to find other people who could help: “I had been to the doctor and with the cuts in the NHS there was not a lot of resources out there, but then someone at work told me about Able Futures.”

Getting emotional support and building resilience

Able Futures is funded by the Department of Work and Pensions so Paula was able to access support at no charge and to arrange regular appointments with a vocational rehabilitation consultant (VRC) who she could speak to about the issues she was experiencing and what she could learn and do to help herself feel better.

Paula has found it reassuring to have someone with a mental health qualification to speak to: “Colette my VRC was really helpful because she has a psychiatric background. She gave me lots of information and insight that helped me. I could see things I was doing that could spiral out of control if I didn’t help myself.”

A plan to feel better

“I had been staying up late at night. Not eating proper meals. Not doing any housework, which is really not me,” says Paula about her behaviour before she started getting support from Able Futures. To help herself start to feel better she says “the key of everything was trying to get back to work and establish a good routine. Nowadays, I come in from work and have a shower. Put on my pyjamas. Candle on. Try to get to bed at a good time even if I don’t feel so tired. I look after myself.”

Able Futures gave Paula someone to talk to

Able Futures gave Paula someone to talk to

Paula was able to share her thoughts over coffee in a relaxed place

Paula was able to share her thoughts over coffee in a relaxed place

Paula talked to an Able Futures VRC in confidence about whatever was on her mind

Paula talked to an Able Futures VRC in confidence about whatever was on her mind

Talk about anything

Before she had support from Able Futures, Paula says she was in a bad place with relationships with her Mum, daughter and colleagues strained. “I felt like I had nobody here,” she says. So having her VRC to talk to has been a vital support. “Colette didn’t judge me and I could say anything to her without her judging me. I had started to plan things I was going to do to end it and I could say this to her. Our meetings had no pressure. It was just a coffee and someone to empathise.”

With someone to talk to and a daily routine to help her look after herself, Paula has returned to work and is enjoying it. “I went back to work a week or two earlier than I thought I would do. I had gone back to work too soon before,” says Paula who has found the people she provides palliative care to have been happy to see her return to work. “Before I felt like I couldn’t support them because I couldn’t support myself. Now I know I’m doing a good job for them and me. “

Paula also feels better outside work and has tackled problems with where to live by applying for a mortgage for a new home and by taking some pressure off herself to resolve problems with some family relationships. “I don’t think there’s anything I’ve not been through and that I can’t cope with now,” she says. “I’ll be at work and I’ll chat away to people once I know I can trust them. I tell other people about Able Futures. It helped me see there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Access to Work Mental Health Support Service: Freephone 0800 321 3137