Wednesday 21 September 2016
Philippa and Sam’s story
Sam was in his final year at Portsmouth University. That Christmas, his behaviour had changed dramatically – he had been telling everyone that he was dead, staying in bed all day, and up all night, roaming around the house and eating lots of food.
The following year, he began self-harming, and became obsessive - he believed he had committed the most terrible crimes and had to be punished. At the time, I had nowhere to turn for information or support. I was in a state of fear, puzzlement, and horror at what was happening.
This was the start of a seven-year period in which Sam was in and out of hospital, and was given seven different explanations for his illness. It was only a chance conversation with a locum psychiatrist which changed this. When I asked him what he thought was wrong, he looked at Sam’s notes, and said “well, it says schizophrenia in here, but I don’t really know”. That word changed everything.
I wanted to find out more about it. NHS Direct suggested that I contact the Advice Service at Rethink Mental Illness. I was immediately impressed. I was used to being brushed off, but the person I spoke to was not like someone in a call centre. Here was someone who was really happy to listen to me.
Following the call, he sent me some of their booklets about schizophrenia. Having good information gave me much more confidence – I learned how to behave much better with Sam, and how it would Sam’s illness would have an impact on different aspects of his life, such as his ability to manage money. This was a real step forward. It meant I could be much more helpful in the care I gave to Sam.
The material from Rethink Mental Illness was so well put-together, I wanted to find out more. I’ve now been a member of Rethink Mental Illness for eleven years. I gradually became more involved: I became a volunteer on their London Regional Committee in 2005. Being with them made a huge difference – these were people like me. I could share my concerns and my frustrations with them, and they’d understand straightaway. It felt incredibly positive to be part of this group of my peers for the first time. Sam says it’s helped him too:
“Rethink Mental Illness has been vital in my recovery. The staff there are very friendly and helpful. They have provided support, they have lobbied for greater understanding of my condition, and they have provided information to me and my Mum on my condition, which leads to a better outcome.”
I’ve carried on using the Information and Advice line – most recently, I needed information on Sam’s reassessment for Employment and Support Allowance, as I didn’t understand changes to the new forms. It’s important to get it right, as without this, Sam’s benefits could be stopped. You can feel confident that by calling up, you’re going to get the most up-date date and accurate information and advice.”
Please support our work and help us provide information and advice to more people like Philippa and Sam