Zoi’s journey

Zoi has been living and working in the UK since 2011 and between 2016-2019 she worked in banqueting in hotels and companies. Unfortunately, due to Covid, she was made redundant as the hospitality industry almost collapsed as venues were not allowed to operate. Zoi has been unemployed for 2 years now and has tried to find work.

During the first year of lockdown, Zoi found herself feeling lonely and isolated. Her mood was very low, and she started having panic attacks, lost her appetite and wasn’t sleeping very well. The fact that she couldn’t go out due to covid and having to stay in was affecting her mental health. Once Covid restrictions allowed her to go out for exercise, she took this opportunity and decided to start running and cycling in her local park as she knew this would make her feel better. Zoi also enrolled at college to improve her English when lessons in the classroom were allowed. She also applied to a local charity shop to volunteer and is still working there every Saturday. She said the volunteering experience gave her an employment opportunity, and also helped to reduce loneliness and isolation along with meeting good friends.

Referral to HeadsUp

Although she felt she was stepping in the right direction with her mental health, she still didn’t feel herself. She spoke to her GP and was referred to Vitaminds to work with an NHS therapist. Zoi expressed her desire to work but was finding it difficult due to her negative thoughts and low confidence. She also wasn’t sure how to start job searching or if her CV was any good. Vitaminds suggested HeadsUp.

Zoi said she didn’t know what to expect from HeadsUp but after her first meeting with her Peer Support Worker (PSW) she was amazed at the advice she was given. Not only for support in job searching for her wellbeing too. She attended an online workshop for confidence and wellbeing and felt more positive. She said her PSW has given her great emotional support and completing the “My goals session” has given her a direction.

Developing practical skills

After Zoi started to feel more confident, she was referred to a Development and Skills Officer (DSO) to support her with practical job searching, CV and interview skill pods. She said that working with her DSO has shown her how to revamp her existing CV so it’s ready to use and upload to job applications. The CV skill pod has given her so much confidence to adapt her CV for different jobs she is applying for. She found that completing the other skill pods such as job searching, CV, Interview skills and and questions have been so helpful.

Zoi shares her experiences

She said that ‘its ok to have worksheets, but my DSO talked me through and explained how to use the information. It embeds in your head rather than just being given a worksheet for you to do on your own.

the HeadsUp program has been truly supportive[to her] by people with experience and a deep understanding of mental health.’

It has made her feel that she has progressed so much, as the steps are very clever and clear so she knew what she was doing and where she was with each session. She’s told her friends about the support she was getting, they couldn’t believe she was receiving help and it was free!

She said that ‘HeadsUp has lessened my anxiety and made me much more confident going out.’

Now feeling well within herself, she’s been able to job search and apply and attend an interview. Although she didn’t get the job, she feels that she would not have had the confidence to get this far, without the support from HeadsUp.

Zoi said ‘[she would] recommend HeadsUp because knowing my PSW has had her own mental health experience, has made me feel my wellbeing is better understood. My PSW understood me completely’.

Now studying for her GCSE’s and looking for her professional work in printing companies.

For more information about Vitaminds, click here (Add link) https://www.vitahealthgroup.co.uk/nhs-services/nhs-mental-health/

Stephen from Southend

Stephen had been working in a restaurant when his Mum became poorly and needed 24-hour care. He decided to quit his full-time job and provide care for his Mum but sadly after 10 years his Mum passed away. Stephen said he then found himself not doing anything, he was just sitting around in the house and watching TV and films. He said that he had always been a bit of a loner and didn’t want to go to work as it didn’t bother him. He felt happy doing nothing for a while but then he started to feel anxious and depressed, although at the time didn’t recognise that this was what he was feeling.  This then progressed to become suicidal thoughts.

Starting with HeadsUp

Stephen lives with his sister, and she noticed how he had become withdrawn and encouraged him to go to the doctors. They assessed Stephen and confirmed he had had a breakdown and prescribed antidepression medication. The medication helped him to feel less anxious and depressed and he began to feel more motivated. The doctor also referred Stephen to Therapy for You which he found very helpful. As he was discussing his feelings and how he would like to get back in to work, Therapy for You suggested HeadsUp to him.  As the project supports participants just like Stephen to find work Stephen thought it was a perfect opportunity as he didn’t know where to start.  His Peer Support Worker (PSW) discussed creating a CV and how to look for jobs on the internet as he said he didn’t feel very confident having been out of work for so long. His PSW suggested working with a Development and Skills Officer (DSO) on his CV and other skill pods, such as interview types and techniques. Although he wasn’t sure if it was going to help, as time went on working with his DSO, Stephen said he started to feel excited about the thought of getting a job.

A smashing CV!

He was engaging in all the skill pods and really looked forward to his weekly call as it gave him a purpose and something to focus on.  He particularly enjoyed the interview skill pods, as this gave him so much confidence about what to expect, the different types of interviews and how to structure and answer questions using the STAR technique. Stephen said he was only hoping to come away with a CV and now he has a smashing CV, and the confidence to job search and apply for jobs!

Interview Success!

Stephen said “I can’t believe the support I’ve received from HeadsUp and most of all, after only 2 months of being on the program, I’ve successfully searched, applied, and got a job working in KFC! During the interview, I was able to answer the questions using the techniques that I’d been taught, and I used my CV to talk about all my skills”

Overall, Stephen said the support from the PSW gave him hope, he felt organised and they helped him order a birth certificate. He said that the support from his DSO was life changing. He said his confidence grew every time he met and that recapping the interview skills and exploring his CV really helped. By creating a new CV, it showed him how his skills are transferable and that made him begin to believe in himself. His sister noticed a huge difference in his motivation even after the first few weeks!  She could see that he was happier.

Looking back, Stephen said “I’m proud of sticking with the course and most of all getting a job!! I’ve started working on a 20-hour per week contract and they’ve already asked me to work more hours as they are so pleased with my work. This has made me more confident that I’ve made progress in the company so quickly. I would definitely recommend HeadsUp and to take all the advice, listen and do the workshops as these are brilliant. Just take on everything they offer”


Read Hazal’s story

Hazal, was employed by a Call Centre, taking repair enquiries. She was working more and more hours than her agreed contract just to meet her targets. She started to run herself into the ground trying to keep up and had to leave her job as she started to feel mentally exhausted. This bad experience had knocked her confidence and she had been unemployed for 2 years. To try and get her confidence back, she started volunteering for a local transport service. She was in an admin role and really enjoying it. Said being with people again helped her confidence so much that she felt she was ready to get back into employment.

Then covid hit and she was laid off from her volunteering role. Hazal said she found herself staying at home all the time and feeling depressed. She felt that she didn’t have a purpose anymore and although she loved being with her children, she needed the routine and structure that having a job provides. She started to become very low, and her anxiety was getting worse, even struggling to go out of the house on her own. She didn’t feel that she’d ever be able to work again.

Finding out about HeadsUp

She saw an advert about getting on a course or work at her local Advice Store. After going in and having a chat, they told her about HeadsUp and how they could support her with her anxieties around finding a course or going back to work. Hazal felt anxious about joining HeadsUp at first, but after her first phone call from her Peer Support Worker (PSW) she was put totally at ease and said, she was amazing. Her PSW helped her to go through the enrolment and she started to feel excited as she’d started the ball moving and it felt great! Talking things through with her PSW really helped her decide if she was going to go on course or get a job. She decided that getting back to work was more important for her and her mental health.

Exploring practical skills

Having a pathway to focus on was helping her anxiety and they started to look at jobs and her skills. Her PSW referred her to a HeadsUp Development Skills Officer (DSO) who worked with her on her CV to identify her transferable skills. They explored Interview skills and how to use the STAR method which many people find really helpful – and Hazal did too.

Hazal said she felt confident to job search and apply for a job. Although she didn’t get the first job she went for, she felt she had done her best at the interview and using the STAR technique helped her to answer questions well. She asked for feedback from the interview, and they said that she interviewed well, but was pipped at the post as the other applicant had more experience. Hazal said she felt pleased with herself and is now confident applying and going for an interview independently.

She didn’t know what to expect from HeadsUp, but it’s provided her with structure and routine as she started physically seeing her PSW every week.

My motivation has been really boosted by seeing my PSW in person and just having someone to encourage and guide me.

And then my confidence started to improve

‘The telephone calls from my DSO were just fantastic! They helped me realise that I have more skills than I thought.

Finding herself pleasantly shocked that with the help of HeadsUp she’s found a job so quickly working in an admin role, and how quickly her anxiety and low mood has lessened.

Hazal said ‘ I’ll be working for a company called Provide doing bank work as an administration assistant. I think this suits me more as I am in a bit more control over the hours I work and how much I choose to work. I believe this will help build up my confidence & get me used to going back to a full time admin role.

I have stopped putting myself down and it makes me feel good. My husband has always been supportive and has definitely seen a change in my motivation’

Hazal said ‘[she is] really proud of herself and will be starting work in March. I’m getting out and about again and feel excited to be working again. I now feel confident to update my current CV with my new job!

She said ‘[she would] recommend HeadsUp to anybody that’s nervous or apprehensive, as it’s not just about getting a job. Attending a resilience and wellbeing workshops boosted my confidence, and I didn’t even know these existed! The workshops made me feel good about myself again!’

Hope – and our Peer Support Workers

“Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.” Wikipedia


As a Peer Support Worker, working alongside my Participants is always a privilege to hear peoples stories. I have lived experience of poor mental health and managing that while living through difficult times but I don’t have all the answers.

This has taken me a while to realise that I can’t ‘fix’ people and often this is not what is being looked for.

Sharing hope with participants

If I can offer a safe, non-judgmental space to allow my Participants to explore their difficulties and some possible options I feel I can give them hope.

Some Participants have got jobs, some have gone on to training for the first time since school, and others have the confidence to explore choices they may have previously felt unable to such as applying for jobs or volunteering opportunities.

Walking alongside

In my time with the project I have ‘walked alongside’ over 100 Participants and we have grown together, and found hope together.

Fluidity – understanding our own wellbeing

One of our Peer Support Workers explores how understanding change and the fluidity of our own wellbeing and mental health can be really helpful.

We’ve all heard the News and we’ve all been through a very wild ride the last few years, the changing of the news stories and the events has just put fluidity in the centre of my mind.

Fluidity as a coping mechanism

I speak about fluidity a lot in my work and just in my general life. How our wellbeing and mental health is fluid and changes from day to day, for me personally coping mechanisms have changed the way I see my ‘worst times’ when I’m not quite feeling myself I like to use that time to indulge in my wants and needs, Understanding the fluidity of our wellbeing can also be the fluidity of our ‘self care’ when I’m feeling good or on a high I like to use the time to clean or exercise and eat well, when I’m feeling low and all I want to do is block out the world so I will indulge that part of myself and then pick back up the next day and just listen to my bodies wants or needs.

We all need to learn to be kinder to our minds and bodies and listen to the cues they give us, indulge when you need to and be active and healthy when you can.

Be kind to your body and your mind and it will be kind to you.

Accessible IT for all

When faced with new challenges or opportunities we get our heads together and think of innovative ways to make the most of what we have. When we applied for and received refurbished tablets from Essex County Council we were determined to make the most of them to help our HeadsUp participants.

IT Skill Pods

As well as loaning tablets to participants we’ve also delivered workshops to several people at once using the tablets. These sessions have pulled together 3 of the “Skill Pods” that our DSOs deliver: Job Searching, Online Applications and practical IT.

Learning how to use a tablet

We start with an introduction to the tablet itself. As it runs on the same operating system as most smartphones it is reassuringly familiar. This also means that lessons learned are directly transferrable to equipment participants may already own, and we build this into the latter stages of our session.

Using the tablet to jobsearch

Moving on, we continue to use the tablets alongside a projector as well as open discussion to learn about different methods of job searching. We draw on some of our YouTube videos, using these to explore what has worked- and what hasn’t- when seeking employment. The same approach is used to look at the art of online applications, specifically when applying directly through an employer’s website. We aim to squeeze in as much practical and real-world knowledge as we can to these sessions, based on experience gathered over several years of delivering the project.

Using documents and links

Finally, we return to the IT component. We show attendees how to attach the various documents and links they have been using to an email, which they then send to their own email accounts. This gives them more practical knowledge as well as a copy of the resources they have been learning from. We’ll show them how to save these attachments to their own devices and accounts.

Feedback from our first session, held at SignPost Greenstead, Colchester was incredibly positive. And we’ll be delivering more sessions like this throughout Essex, including Southend and Thurrock. We’ll continue to embrace every new challenge and opportunity.