Engaging with Able Futures, which delivers the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service, has helped 29 year old Steph experience a rare ‘light-bulb’ moment in combatting her anxiety levels.
Able Futures, which is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, provides access to mental health support at no charge and includes regular appointments with a mental health specialist called a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant (VRC).
Steph works as a pharmacy professional in a West Yorkshire hospital and for nine months has met with her Able Futures VRC who has helped her deal with issues that were affecting her mental health and her focus at work. “The advice and support that I received was invaluable. I began to retrain my thinking patterns as my anxiety was leading me to catastrophise and exaggerate what might happen next. I realised that I could gain control and that my tendency to concentrate on the negative was not a part of my personality that had to be with me forever. The only way to describe my experience is to say it was a true ‘light-bulb’ moment.”
Steph referred herself for support from Able Futures following a recommendation from a friend at work. She had been struggling with depression and stress for about six weeks and was having frequent suicidal thoughts.
“I think contributory facts were moving to a new job and struggling to fit in with the team, as well as trying to support my parents as my father was ill,” added Steph. “I have previously been diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) and I have experienced bouts of depression since 2011.”
Starting with some face-to-face appointments with her VRC Janet Firth, Steph made a plan to target her distorted thinking which had become more exaggerated over time. Follow up contact by email and telephone when Steph felt ready to return to work after a period of sick leave following her father’s death meant Steph was able to turn to Able Futures for advice and someone to talk to over nine months.
“I helped Steph to see that there are a number of unhelpful thinking approaches,” says Janet. “Research shows that one of the outcomes of this kind of distorted viewpoint is to start thinking in absolutes, it’s either good or bad - no middle ground. There can also be a tendency to maintain unrealistic expectations or over-estimate the chances of disaster. Each set-back is regarded as a never-ending pattern of defeat.”
Janet introduced Steph to an approach called ‘Circles of Control, Influence and Concern’ that helps the participant to recognise if they have the power to do something about an issue or how to accept when a concern is beyond their control. With Steph’s approval, Janet also liaised with Steph’s manager to explain the problems that she was encountering.
Steph regularly completed her own anxiety diary in order to identify her personal negative triggers and engaged with Able Futures for nine months. She has now returned to work.
“The anxiety journal helped me to engage my rational mind and I am now focusing on my role at the hospital, which can be quite pressured,” said Steph. “I received fast and effective help from Able Futures, it has helped me tremendously."