Francis shares his journey with Changes Bristol, from attending his first 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.
Barton Hill Settlement
41-43 Ducie Road