Tyne Stories: Paul’s Story

Westbridge Mental Health Resettlement Service is a unique partnership between ourselves and Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. It provides specialist residential and clinical support for up to 12 adults who have been discharged from secure mental health hospitals, or prisons with the aim to help integrate back into the community.

Names have been changed to protect the identity of residents.

_ _ _ _

The time I spent at Westbridge I can only describe as a re-birth.

Back in 2013, my life fell apart. The pressures of running my own business and looking after my mam who was struggling with dementia really hit me hard. Having your own mother look you in the eyes and ask you who you are is a truly heart-breaking experience. I’ve been on the long road to recovery ever since.

It all started to become increasingly hard to deal with until it reached the point where I cracked and attempted to take my own life. After this I was transferred to a secure mental health hospital to receive treatment.

I’ll always be grateful for the five years I spent there. It provided me with some distance from the stresses of life and whatnot. It was also a good opportunity to recognise and come to terms with the mental health issues that I had.

Through the treatment, I began to understand that there was an underlying mental health issue that had started in childhood, and this ended up with me developing a personality disorder. I was told that this was a part of the reason why I would suffer depressive episodes often. Becoming aware of my issues only motivated me to take advantage of the help that I was being offered. I wanted to get better. I learned how to deal with the situations and issues that caused my problems and as a result, my mental health improved and I started to feel like a different person.

The professionals around me also started to notice the improvements that I was making. A mental health panel made the decision that I was ready to start the next part of my journey in recovery.

They referred me to Westbridge and I agreed that I would visit once a week for support. This progressed to two, three and four days a week until we all felt that an overnight stay might be good for me. Again the overnight stays increased to the point where we agreed that it would be a good idea for me to move into Westbridge, so I did just that.

I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am for the support I’ve received since being here. I feel like the staff actually understands my situation and what I’m going through. They’ve been nothing but warm and friendly since I met them and they’re always trying to help me in any way they can. They’ve encouraged me to take more control over my life and to focus on the things that are important to me.

Being at Westbridge has given me so much confidence and independence that I just never thought I would have and I can’t thank them enough for that. It’s a very relaxing environment, I can come and go as I please and everyone here is nice. I’ve been learning some new skills too which I’m hoping I can use to land a job in the near future.

When I move on from Westbridge I’m planning on volunteering as a peer mentor with the NHS Mental Health Service and using that as an opportunity to land a permanent position as a peer mentor. I’ve been through some rough times and had some dark thoughts in my days so I’m hoping I can use my experience to help others come to terms with their problems and work through them. To get prepared for this I’ve been undertaking a peer mentoring training programme, once I complete this I’ll be continuing my studies at Newcastle College – which I’m pretty excited about!

At the end of the day, I know that I’ll never fully recover from my mental health issues but for the first time in a long time, I’m confident that I can make a new life for myself. I’ll always be thankful for the support and opportunities that Westbridge have given me, they’ve helped me change my life around.

_ _ _ _

On average, 83% of residents have a positive move on from Westbridge to supported or independent living in the community. This is largely due to the unique partnership between Tyne Support Workers and the Community Mental Health Team.

The two work collaboratively together – carrying out joint assessments, weekly MDTs, and daily handovers. Each team brings their own specialities to Westbridge, offering a wide range of support to help people like Paul find their independence.

After completing the Peer Mentoring Training Programme, Paul volunteered with the trust and is now in full-time employment – a feat which became possible due to the support he received and his own will to improve his health.