Joining a food co-op was one of the best things I did for my mental health
I was referred to Gofal through my local Community Mental Health Services. I had suffered with bouts of depression throughout my adult life but following a particularly difficult year where my marriage ended and my mother received a cancer diagnosis my mental health reached an all-time low, causing me to lose my job.
Having worked all my life, I had never accessed benefits before and due to feeling so unwell I really struggled to know where to start. I was worried about meeting my mortgage repayments, bills and supporting my daughter whilst staring at a massive wad of benefits applications and feeling completely overwhelmed.
My first experience with Gofal was through their Tenancy Support programme which was fantastic. The service offered very practical advice and help so that I could work out what financial support I was entitled to. Navigating the world of benefits can be difficult for anyone but when you’re unwell and under a lot of stress this support really is vital.
I then came into contact with the Pathways Programme. This was the most amazing thing for me and the people I have met have truly helped me in the long term. Losing my job and being unwell meant that I had become isolated, I didn’t feel in a strong enough position to socialise or meet new people but Julie at Pathways met with me and suggested some events that we could both go to, helping me to feel supported.
I was introduced to a food co-op in Blackwood which has been the best thing for my mental health. I would never have gone to a support group as such, but the food co-op is like an alternative support group. People from all walks of life attend, we just all have one thing in common; that we have been touched by mental health difficulties at some stage and in some way.
“I feel like I have now met ‘my people’, if you know what I mean?”
Over the months I got to know people better and started to realise I was surrounded by people who got it, and therefore got me. They genuinely cared about how I was feeling and would notice if I wasn’t myself, sometimes even before I had! We run a range of activities which is great because we can all share skills, and learn new things and I can practice things I enjoy like art and crochet.
I’ve now been volunteering for Gofal for over three and a half years. This has been perfect for me as there hasn’t been any pressure, I’ve been able to do things in my own time and build up my confidence gradually. I am now the Secretary for Taraggan Community Gardens and I work on this two days a week.
My experience at Gofal has been so important and made such a difference to my life. Their services look at you as a whole person and help you in a holistic way. When your mental health is suffering you often need to look at all aspects of your life in order to rebuild and achieve a better balance. Gofal’s services helped me by looking at my needs as a person, what I enjoyed doing, what my interests were and have supported me to pursue them.
I don’t feel that everything is ‘fixed’ as to say but I’ve realised that my mental health is something that I have to work on and maintain. I do want to work eventually and the support that I have received along with volunteering with Taraggan is helping me to build back up to this when I’m ready.