Helping hand that can save people from mental illness

KEELEY Scott still can't believe how quickly she developed mental health problems.

She was working in the finance department of a voluntary sector organisation and as it was a hectic job.

"I was feeling a bit stressed, so decided I needed a break and booked a girly holiday to Valencia. When I was at the airport I noticed the first signs of mental difficulty. I was indecisive, not being able to choose between a sausage or bacon sandwich for breakfast.

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"This might sound strange, but I loved my food and it wasn't in my character. When I finally did decide, I couldn't eat and I was overcome by emotion, I couldn't stop crying. I was also extremely paranoid."

Keely cried constantly throughout the holiday.

"I wouldn't mix with the other girls and it came to a head when I walked into the sea, not knowing whether I would come back out. I was suddenly very suicidal, but only the thoughts of my family stopped me from drowning myself."

After the holiday she went home to her mum and made frequent trips back and forth to her GP. She became increasingly paranoid and isolated.

"I was admitted as an informal patient to Bassetlaw Hospital where I walked round the ward with a belt round my neck, trying to find places to kill myself, but I was so closely monitored that I couldn't."

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A bed on Maple Ward at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust's Longley Centre was found after a few days where Keeley stayed for three months.

"I didn't feel like I could trust anybody. I was so frightened. After three months I was discharged into my mum's care and received a short but excellent period of care from the Home Treatment Service before a smooth transfer was made to the Early Intervention Service (EIS)."

EIS helps young people with symptoms of psychosis access mental health services more easily so they can receive quality, flexible and tailored care and treatment to suit the needs of each person. EIS was set up in 2001 by SHSC, because research over the last two decades has shown that getting effective and consistent help early on gives people the best chance of recovery, as is recommended by the NHS NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) guidelines.

"The emotional support the service offered me was invaluable. The psychosis was managed with medication, but I was left feeling depressed, so talking about how I was feeling really helped."

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Now Keeley works as an employment and education worker for EIS. Ninety per cent of the people EIS work with are in their late teens and early 20s, who are experiencing psychosis – an illness which can include feeling paranoid, hearing voices or experiencing other difficulties which can cause them to drop out of work or college and withdraw from family and friends.

To increase awareness of mental health services, Sheffield is holding its own Mental Health Awareness Day on Friday in Barkers Pool from 10am to 4pm. There will be a variety of stalls, activities and Walk a Mile for Wellbeing. The walk is organised by the Get Walking Keep Walking campaign, a Ramblers' project aimed at helping people to improve their health and wellbeing.

The event is a collaboration between NHS Sheffield, Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust (SHSC) and Sheffield City Council, and co-ordinated by Sheffield Mind. Juliet Forrest, co-ordinator from Sheffield MIND, said: "We want to bring to the public's attention that our mental health is not something to be afraid of, and that there are really easy every-day things we can do to keep us feeling well, and that there are many services available that can provide support."

n For more information contact Juliet Forrest (mental [email protected], 07837947206) or Morwenna Fodden ([email protected], 07975527194).

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