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How understanding friends helped me get my life back

Jean Hale

The Patient and Client Council recently hosted a Healthy Minds workshop in Belfast. More than 150 people attended the day-long event, which included people with a learning disability, carers and healthcare professionals. The aim of the workshop was to give people with a learning disability an opportunity to share their experiences of mental health problems or illness. Service-user Jean Hale talked about coping with depression.

In the past I was bullied, which made me feel worthless and very low. I got to the stage when it seemed there was no point in getting out of bed in the mornings and there were even times when I felt that life wasn’t worth living.

My GP prescribed medication for me and referred me to a consultant, but that wasn’t enough and I was still struggling with depression.

Then my social worker referred me to Positive Futures - an organisation that supports people with a learning disability. I was introduced to Teresa O’Hare and she became my support worker.

At last I had someone who listened to me, who understood and helped me to sort out my negative feelings.

This was definitely a turning point in my life and things started to get better for me. I then joined a group at Positive Futures and felt I was really getting my life back.

At the group I am accepted for being me and people are interested in what I have to say and I genuinely feel valued.

It’s wonderful to be with others that I have things in common with. I really have found true friends. We do a lot of fun things together, such as going to a country and western weekend in Donegal every summer, where we have the best of craic!

I also try my best to eat healthily and get some exercise, as I now know that healthy eating and exercise are really important for my mental health.

I attended an assertiveness course, which gave me the confidence to speak up for myself. There was a time I would never have dreamed that I could get up and speak to a room full of people, but I’ve come a very long way.

I still have my down days, but I now know what I need to do and who I need to talk to so I can feel better.

I would advise anyone who is feeling depressed to find someone they can talk to - someone who genuinely cares, who listens and who understands.

Positive Futures is a Northern Ireland-based charity that supports individuals with a learning disability, an acquired brain injury and people on the autistic spectrum, and their families. For more information, visit

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