I wasn’t able to go out before..
Mary (name has been changed) is a 43 year old woman with a historical diagnosis of agoraphobia who has become increasingly socially isolated over several years. Mary suffers from low mood and low confidence and is sleeping a lot. She also has hypertension and reported to have not seen her GP in roughly two years as she has not felt able to get there. She was the main live in carer for her mother before she passed away and she also lost her sister two years ago. She has some family in Leyton whilst the rest live in Jamaica and there is very limited contact with any of them. Mary is on ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and is currently paying bedroom tax for the spare room in her flat but does not feel like she would be able to move at this time. Mary was referred into One Hackney to reduce her social isolation and re-engage her with mental health services.
As the manager of the One Hackney funded Community Supporters project hosted by Volunteer Centre Hackney, I assessed Mary and we agreed on a plan to find an appropriate volunteer befriender to match her with. The volunteer would build up a rapport with her and provide support and motivation to get out into the community. Mary wanted to eventually feel confident enough go out independently, to volunteer herself and possibly go back to work.
I introduced a trained volunteer to Mary and they got on well. The volunteer had herself recently moved to Hackney and wanted to meet people, to try something new and engage with her local community. A plan was made for the volunteer to visit Mary on a one to one weekly basis with visits to last between 1-2 hours. On their first visit Mary decided that she wanted to go to the Barbican as she had fond memories of it and had not been since the nineties. The volunteer supported Mary to order a taxi and they went together and had a walk around before coming back together in the taxi. Both Mary and her volunteer were very happy with the outcome of their first visit. Since then Mary and her volunteer have been out together to the park, to the shops and for coffee. They plan to attend other community activities including a local well-being group. They went out together to get Mary’s laptop fixed and have now researched online courses. Her volunteer also plans to support Mary to attend her benefits assessment.
Mary was also referred to a One Hackney Psychologist and has been offered 6 weekly CBT sessions to take place in her home. The Psychologist has been fully supportive of the work that she is doing with her volunteer and has given constructive tips and weekly exercises for them to complete together. She suggested that they summarise the session at the end to give Mary some encouragement (e.g. well done Mary, we manage to get to X location, you managed to stay there even though you were nervous.)
Mary has said that she ‘wasn’t able to get out before’ but now ‘feels better about getting to the point where she can go out by herself’. When asked on her thoughts on her volunteer, Mary has said she finds her ‘nice, friendly and they have things in common’ and has found the experience ‘supportive and helpful’.
Her volunteer has said ‘It’s a pleasure volunteering with Mary as she is really keen to improve her life, and I think she is working hard to leave her comfort zone and address her mental health issues. I’m delighted that the scheme is so well organised as it allows us all to work towards tangible goals. And I’ve met some lovely people..’
As the work with Mary is ongoing, we will continue to follow her progress and provide an updated case study at the end of her intervention.
I received a text from Mary last week to say that she and her volunteer had taken a short bus ride together. To put this into context, when I asked her when the last time she had taken the bus was, she replied ‘I had a really bad panic attack the last time I took a bus which is why I avoided it for long – it was back in 2011.’
Mary said that after a few more trips with her volunteer, she hopes to make it to the Volunteer Centre Hackney to explore how she herself can get involved with volunteering to further improve her well-being and confidence and help others in return.