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Francis' Story

Francis is sharing his journey with Changes Bristol. He is describing his progression from attending his first Changes Group to facilitating one.

I first found out about changes by accident in 2013. I overheard some people talking about it while i was visiting a hospital. My first few meetings were quite challenging as i didn't know anyone, but i enjoyed going so i continued and i don't regret it.

My mental health has been up and down over the years but I keep going to meetings as they really help me to manage my mental health.

To begin with I suffered with anxiety but this has improved a great deal and changes has helped with this. I became a facilitator around 2015 and I have really enjoyed this role. I have developed as a person and gained experience and knowledge about different kinds of mental health issues and the available resources for dealing with them.

One of the things I like most about changes is the wealth of friends and close relationships that I have acquired from meeting other members. Everyone has been very kind and supportive. Members have social activities and I have been to many of these which have included walks, meals out, trips to the cinema and even camping. Changes has also put on events and activities which I have participated in and enjoyed.

As a facilitator i feel very supported and valued. This has increased my self esteem and given me great self-confidence.

There is some stigma towards mental health issues in society but I am lucky in having understanding family and friends who lessen the impact of this. I think the best defence against stigma is having good friends or people with similar problems who you can go to for support. Then the negative attitudes lose their impact. I realise this is not always easy or possible for people but knowing that there are people with similar experiences such as other changes members helps a lot.

Since coming to changes I have learned a lot about myself and my mental health. The 'modules' (mental health worksheets) that changes provides for discussion have been really helpful in getting a handle on different aspects of mental health and members often give advice on specific problems in meetings and where to get help.

I have learned about mindfulness and other techniques but just the format of changes; sharing and listening and setting and reviewing goals is a great support for mental well-being and improving mental health.
 It would be hard to overstate the positive impact of changes on my life and I know many people who feel the same way. I have seen improvements in people who come to changes in terms of confidence and quality of life.

I highly recommend changes to anyone who wishes to improve their mental health no matter where they start their journey. I hope that changes continues to attract members and good new facilitators and that it expands to offer its services to other communities.

Written by Francis More O'Ferrall, member and changes facilitator -  March 2019

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