South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and its Volunteer Peer Advocacy Service were the recent winners of the Patient and Client Council Excellence in Co-Production Awards. As part of Co-production Week (03-07 July) Martin Logue tells of his journey to accessing the service which, in turn, has enabled him to become part of the Peer Advocacy Service.
It was around March 2013 that I noticed my mood was dropping. I knew something wasn’t right. I remember mentioning it to a close friend at a social event. It was the start of a downward spiral that would last for two years - when my home became prison and bedroom a cell.
I kept myself hidden in my bedroom away from family, worried that my unwashed, dishevelled appearance would frighten the children.
I felt I was just existing, I was useless and a burden to my family. I started to think about ending it, thinking it would be better for everyone. My GP put me on medication and told me that I’d taken a breakdown.
I’d lost three younger brothers over a period of years earlier in my life. I wondered if this had caused my breakdown, but thought surely it would have happened sooner?
I knew I had to tell someone about my suicidal thoughts. This resulted with me being referred for an assessment and admission onto a psychiatric ward - the first of many. I felt the ward team could fix my problem. I also felt relief that I couldn't harm myself.
Staff advised that it was essential to add some sort of structure to my everyday life. The team helped me with those first steps.
In September 2014, I was discharged from hospital and knew I had to do something that could help me to manage this terrible illness, which had already taken away one and half years of my life.
I began attending the AWARE support group for people with depression. A fellow patient involved in peer advocacy told me about the Derriaghy Social & Educational Centre near Lisburn.
Days after my last discharge from hospital I drove to the centre distressed. Staff listened and placed a referral. At last I had a lifeline. I felt I was starting to live again.
I linked in with the Peer Advocacy Service and eventually I started my training to become a volunteer peer advocate.
I completed an Open College Network (OCN) Self Advocacy and OCN Level 2 in Peer Advocacy, then applied through the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust Volunteer Services and, after appropriate checks and a commitment to continuous training, qualified as a peer advocate.
I am now a volunteer peer advocate on psychiatric wards. Helping others in turn helps me as I now feel I have a purpose in life and this is my vocation. Providing this service feels a lot better than any medication.
I still have bad days, but I now have my life back. I’ve learned to take one day at a time. Please believe me, I was a very weak person. If I can do this you, too, can learn to live again. I promise you this – this is a fight you CAN win.
If you are struggling with depression, you may find the group support offered by AWARE useful. For more information visit http://bit.ly/2m3WWqq
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