"It’s been a very rich journey, very positive"

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Working with an Employment Specialist really helped my confidence because I wasn’t out there alone looking for a needle in the haystack anymore. In between sessions, I was rebuilding myself, my strength, and my mental attitude.

Employment Support from Southdown came at the right time for me because I was in a bad place.

I’d been a stay at home dad for many years and I’d tried to get jobs. I’d been on the dole, I’d gone through their channels and I’d applied for everything but I didn’t get any interviews. It was dispiriting. I knew I needed as much help as possible.

I needed support with my mental health and a big part of me getting back into the workforce was about self-esteem. I’d suffered from depression for a long time, a long time. I’d been proactive over the years and had a variety of therapy and psychotherapy, but a lot of things were brought to the surface with the breakdown of a relationship. I suffered from a mental breakdown and in February I tried to kill myself.

I was found by a helicopter and taken to the mental health crisis team. That was the start of the journey to get better. There were a variety of people and organisations I met on that journey - I wasn’t aware there were so many good people out there. It also really changed what I wanted to do for work.

I began to be honest with the GP about how I was feeling and that sparked a number of different places to go to. I’d no idea a service like Employment Support existed!

When my Employment Specialist first got in touch with me I went in with an open mind. She was great. We matched well. It was just what I needed. I really wanted to sort myself out – I was open, honest, and direct.

During our second session, I told her I tried to kill myself and had been in a crisis unit. It showed I could relate to her and relax with her. That was the winning formula – being with someone I was comfortable with.

It’s a very personalised service. There’s a big difference between a Recruitment Consultant and an Employment Specialist. An Employment Specialist brings a complex skillset to the table. On the outside, a support session looks like a social get-together in a café, but a lot is happening. She had a variety of skills she could use to tailor her support, and she could think on her feet with what I brought to the session. She saw me in full flow, gauged it all, and steered it.

They were like brainstorming sessions. She would throw job opportunities at me and we talked about what I could bring to the table. She always had an idea of where I could go and she knew people within Southdown she could email if she didn’t know something. She would look at the positions available and whether I would need to retrain or do unpaid work to get my foot in the door.

If I’d been searching for jobs on my own it would have been a slow process, but she was very efficient. She was a warm, approachable person with great people skills. She was a great support. Knowing I could ask her things about work really helped.

My background was in the music business but I was quite open to other possibilities. And then the lightbulb went off for her and for me! My own misfortune with my mental health actually steered me to a place where I wanted to work in mental health support.

Working with an Employment Specialist really helped my confidence because I wasn’t out there alone looking for a needle in the haystack anymore. In between sessions, I was rebuilding myself, my strength, and my mental attitude. It’s been a very rich journey, very positive.

During lockdown we would have Zoom calls – we still had good rapport and silly banter. Knowing I wanted to work in mental health really helped us focus my job search.

The early stages of lockdown really didn’t serve my mental health well at all. I’d moved back in with my partner and kids because she wanted to rekindle the relationship but we didn’t get any time to rebuild it. We went back into the treacherous areas of bad communication, stress, breakdown, and anxiety. It was awful.

Lockdown was a real knockback. I was left trying to scrape the time together to go for a walk. I drank too much, didn’t exercise enough, and didn’t eat that well. I had to relook at it all. Before that I’d been getting to a better place. I’d been working with a counsellor, acupuncturist, and shamanic healer, and I’d been walking a lot in the downs and pulling myself back.

It’s different now. I’m on my own and I’ve got a new job – as a Social Care Worker. I’ll be working with a variety of people under 65 with mental health issues who come from different backgrounds and have different conditions ranging from autism to substance abuse. The organisation will train me on the job and I’ll be doing relief work to begin with which is good because I have childcare commitments.

I found out about the job because I met a worker in the park when my son was playing with his boys! We were just two dads having a conversation around a sandpit! He told me where he worked and I said that’s what I was interested in. He said there’d be positions in a month or two and so I gave him my contact details and he followed it up! My Employment Specialist and I then found the job online and sent in my CV and application!

The job interview was done over a Zoom call. My Employment Specialist was the only person I’d zoomed before so having that experience was good. We practised mock interviews and we nailed them! On the day of my interview, I delivered it no worries. I was confident. And it led to proper work!

I’m still in touch with the Employment Support service. We text every week and we’re currently going through the DBS checks for the new job. My Employment Specialist is still absolutely there for me. I don’t think she would have let go off me until I’d got a job!

The mentors and guides I’ve worked with, whether spiritual or work-based, have been an important part in putting myself back together. The work with my Employment Specialist has brought me out of my shell and she’s been a big part of this jigsaw. I’ve found it healing.

Self-reflection has been a big part of rebuilding things for me too and there are probably a lot of men who need this work. You can’t do it on your own.

The help is there but don’t expect it all to happen overnight. It’s a work in progress. The more you understand the process, the more resilient you become. Every time you make progress you improve your self-esteem. Being proactive helps. Being physically active, mentally stimulated, and grounded with a routine, helps. I think you need a bit of everything.

Our specialist Employment Support service helps people access and retain paid work, complete education and training and get involved in volunteering. Employment Specialists work in partnership with Mental Health Recovery Teams in East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton and Hove to provide support tailored to individual needs, goals and aspirations.