'I think Mind in Mid Herts really is the only reason I am here today' - Welwyn man saved from suicide by charity
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Mental health support charity Mind in Mid Herts has seen a 40 per cent increase in the number of people they are helping over the last year due to the impact of Covid and various lockdowns.
In addition to counselling, the charity offers a series of support services including group sessions, keep-in-touch calls, art groups, meet-ups, nature walks and just-talk webinars.
Welwyn Garden City resident Paul [not his real name], 53, is one of those to benefit from its work, having felt such a crushing sense of loneliness during the height of the pandemic that he began fantasising about his own death.
All that kept him going were the weekly Keep in Touch (KIT) calls from his local Mind in Mid Herts office, a service set up during the first lockdown in March 2020 which specifically targeted people who were isolated and in need of support.
He explained: "Sometimes it was all I had to look forward to during the week. Each Tuesday or Wednesday someone from Mind would ring me up just to check in on me and see if I wanted to chat. I think Mind in Mid Herts really is the only reason I am here today."
In his bathroom cupboard Paul had a supply of strong painkillers he had been prescribed after being hit by a bus while crossing the road. Those pills, he thought, would be the way he would take his life when the day came.
"During the first lockdown I’d sit in the garden with my neighbour," said Paul.
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"But I think I started to become a burden on him because I was in such a depressive state, so by the second lockdown I was seeing virtually no one."
Paul’s isolation during lockdown stemmed from the breakdown of a 15-year relationship just before news of the pandemic broke. He said he feels issues around his mental health had ruined his adult relationships all his life and so, estranged from his family, he found himself utterly alone during the pandemic.
"I’d wake up in the morning and lie there till midday unable to get up, feeling like I was under water, living off bread and bacon, with only Facebook to turn to for life outside."
Paul’s told Mind that he had issues around trust and intimacy which he felt stemmed from his childhood when he experienced sexual abuse. He was aware that his parents had also experienced childhood sexual abuse and Paul's uncle had abused him from the age of four.
His parents had done their best to break the chain of abuse and raise a successful family but their limited understanding of healthy relationships meant they were not able to protect Paul.
Paul said he experienced emotional and physical abuse from his father, who was controlling and would be very quick to anger. As Paul grew older he began to rail against this controlling environment, at times hitting back at his father and on other days in tears.
Paul explained that he had felt hopeless that anything could change and this led to a cocaine habit as an adult. He had a series of jobs but was unable to develop any sort of direction in a career. As Paul’s mental and physical health deteriorated, he experienced bullying and abuse from other men down at the pub.
Paul now finds MiMH’s social support - especially the nature walks - a safe place to heal and recover.
"You can always talk to someone that gets it because they’ve been there themselves and it gives you a renewed sense of hope. Being out in nature means you get to see the season’s change and enjoying fresh air in the company of others makes me feel happy to be alive again."