In his mid-twenties, Ben had been dealing with mental health difficulties for most of his life and in his own words had “never worked”. He had held a couple of voluntary positions, but despite qualifications in animal care he had struggled to find employment and found himself “drifting in life day to day, unfulfilled, without a purpose or even a reason to get up”.
Realising that it’s ok to ask for a helping hand when needed, Ben felt that he “needed to take the first steps to make a positive change”. After looking around for the right support he was referred to HeadsUp, with whom he started in July 2019. He was looking forward to moving towards a better quality of life, although with some trepidation. What if this didn’t work out? After making the decision to get support, how would he feel if he was unsuccessful?
Ultimately, Ben decided that the risk was worth taking: for him, getting that “helping hand” to move towards employment was going to help with his confidence and self-belief. The “can-do attitude” would lead to an income, the chance to enjoy his hobbies, and a more financially comfortable home life.
From his first meeting with a Peer Support Worker (PSW), Ben started to feel like he was moving forward. She invited the Employer Engagement Manager (EEM) to meet with Ben, and between the three of them they looked at Ben’s aspirations and worked out a route to get there. One of his interests is palaeontology, but Ben was not sure his qualifications would get him into this field. At the same time, he felt strongly that getting “a job” would help him in so many ways that this should be his first goal.
Alongside the support of his PSW and the EEM, Ben took part in the three-day HeadsUp workshop, which focusses on well-being and self-care strategies. Participants normally finish the workshop with higher confidence and self-belief, and Ben was no exception. In the background the EEM had contacted a famous palaeontologist, Dr Dean Lomax, who happily provided advice and encouragement to Ben to help with his longer-term goal. Not only was this information practically useful, but it reinforced Ben’s new belief that asking for a helping hand could lead to quite extraordinary results.
As Ben’s journey with HeadsUp continued, he was encouraged to attend a recruitment day for the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust. He managed to do this on his own, and picked up an application pack for a role as a cleaner. Over a series of meetings he was helped to complete the forms- something he had not had to do before, and which caused him some concerns. He was successful and, after passing an interview, needed a further helping hand with completing forms and providing references. Having not worked before he struggled to get a professional reference, but with a bit of support both from HeadsUp and the employer he was able to overcome this hurdle and start his first job- as a hospital cleaner.
Ben is rightly proud of this. He now has that reason to get up, and knows that people depend on him. He’s proud of his role within the wider care of patients and knows that what he does matters, helping to keep vulnerable people safe. He now has less anxiety about finance, and is able to enjoy time both with his partner and on his hobbies- including historical re-enactments and sword-fighting!
Ben’s journey with HeadsUp didn’t end when he started work though, with him choosing to take up the offer of In-Work Support. He had felt supported by a network of people on his side, and wanted to maintain this as he embarked on a new stage of his life. Now, nine months after starting work, he is feeling positive and fulfilled, “a productive member of society” in his words. This has had a knock-on effect in all aspects of his life, and so he says that he would “absolutely recommend” HeadsUp to anyone who feels they need that helping hand.