Strong relationships are key to better mental health and wellbeing

Mental health survivor Dean has learnt as much as he can about his mental health issues so he can live his life to the full. Dean says his relationship with his Second Step support worker Rachel is key: “She totally sees I am the expert in all of this.” Rachel says: “I’ve helped him learn about himself”.

Dean and Rachel’s relationship is powerful. You just have to talk to them to see that. And it’s this connection of trust and respect which has helped Dean discover strong coping mechanisms – even on bad days.

Second Step, a leading mental health charity in the West of England, is championing strong relationships like Dean and Rachel’s during Mental Health Awareness Week (16 – 22 May). This year’s theme is relationships – the relationships we have with friends, colleagues, neighbours and others. When these relationships are strong it is easier to feel more in control of our lives, with or without the symptoms of mental ill-health.

Aileen Edwards, the Chief Executive of Second Step, said: “Strong relationships are at the heart of the work we do with people. We offer our clients real hope that their lives can change for the better.

“The client’s voice is heard in all the work we do. Our vibrant client groups help shape our services and the way we run them. We recognise the importance of the client experience and pioneered the introduction of peer staff – employing people with first hand experience of mental health services to work in our support teams.”

Dean and Rachel’s story

Dean says his relationship with Rachel is based on honesty and respect. “She totally sees that I am the expert in all of this. I live with my symptoms all day, every day. And she has empathy for me for this”.

Rachel says Dean has developed brilliant coping strategies to deal with his ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), personality disorder and bipolar and she supports him with a positive mental attitude. “He wants to learn about the different mental health issues and how to cope with them so that he can live his life to the full.”

Dean says: “Getting support is the best thing I have done,” and urges others to seek support for their mental health issues.

Rachel enjoys helping Dean with different aspects of his life, not just the administrative tasks and feels that this is important. He listens to someone else’s point of view, and as a result he understands himself more.

Dean, who used to be a successful athlete at national standard as a teenager, fell into a life of chaos when his mental health issues took over. Dean then turned to drink and drugs to block out how he was feeling. Dean realises now that this just ended up making his mental health worse. “Rachel helps me remain hopeful even when I have tough days – and that means my life feels more manageable and I feel more in control,” says Dean, who lives in Weston.

Dean has coping mechanisms to help overcome his mental health issues. He understands his triggers and knows to avoid them. He eats a vegan diet and doesn’t smoke or drink so that he can give himself the best chance of being mentally well. When he has a bad day, Rachel encourages Dean to think of the positives in his life. He had a difficult childhood, but she talks to him about being a survivor rather than a victim and describes it as giving him “fire in his belly” to get up in the morning even if he doesn’t always feel like it. Rachel says her job is about listening and not judging and says: “I try to put myself in Dean’s shoes” in order to help him.

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