I wasn’t able to go out before..

Introduction

Mary (name has been changed) is a 43-year-old woman with a historical diagnosis of agoraphobia who had become increasingly socially isolated over several years. Mary suffered from low mood and low confidence. She also had hypertension and reported to have not seen her GP in roughly two years as she had not felt able to get there. She was the main live in carer for her mother before she passed away and she had also recently lost her sister, and had very limited contact with her family. Mary was referred to Community Supporters to reduce her social isolation and to help re-engage her with mental health services.

Intervention

We visited Mary and after talking about her situation as well as her long term goals, we agreed to find an appropriate volunteer befriender to match her with. Mary wanted to eventually feel confident enough go out independently, to volunteer herself and possibly go back to work.

We 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. 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, while she will also support Mary to attend her benefits assessment.

Mary was also referred to a psychologist who was fully supportive of the work that they are doing together and has suggested that they summarise the session at the end to give Mary encouragement (e.g. well done Mary, we managed to get to X location, you managed to stay there even though you were nervous).

Outcome

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’. She reported that they had taken the bus together, which she had not done “since 2011”. When asked on her thoughts on her volunteer, Mary said she found her ‘nice, friendly and they have things in common’ and found the experience ‘supportive and helpful’.

Her volunteer 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’.