Not everybody has a legal entitlement to a Mental Health Advocate. This is why Community Advocacy is crucial to support those struggling with mental ill health. One service user explains the life changing impact Community Advocacy had on her life.

After a chaotic childhood, as a teenager I got into a domestic violent relationship, in which I was held prisoner and almost died. Eventually I got out, but what remained was I was a prisoner in my own mind, with undiagnosed PTSD, agoraphobia, severe anxiety and severe depression.  I became very reclusive and isolated with no friends and was completely unable to go out. Sleeping was the only break I had from my mind, so I slept a lot.

In 2012, this trauma finally made its way to the surface and I was sectioned under the mental health act and was experiencing Psychosis. During this time I had a statutory advocate from VITAL (formerly BAMHAG) who tried to help me to appeal my section. That appeal was denied.

I began trying to rebuild my life. Although with unresolved trauma, I became ill again in 2016, I had tried to access mental health services via my GP and First Response but wasn’t being listened to. My anxiety, depression and psychosis were making it very hard for me to fight for services . I made constant calls to my GP and the crisis service but got no help.  I felt I was undeserving and better off dead. I thought others were more deserving of the services and finally gave up. I tried to commit suicide - luckily for my children I was unsuccessful.

I asked VITAL for help. My advocate came to see me and we talked about how I felt. She came with me to the GP, doing what I couldn’t do at the time and stood up for me. This resulted in a referral to the CMHT and a psychiatrist. Unfortunately the referral didn’t come through quick enough and I became more unwell with psychosis. My advocate and I got in touch with First Response. After several phone calls, I was eventually assessed by an Approved Mental Health Practitioner. The result of which was that I was given help from the Intensive Home Treatment Team. Without the community advocate support this would not have happened. I would have been left in the community until I acted in a way which would have had me sectioned, using more NHS money to keep me on an acute ward or alternatively being dead through suicide.

My advocate has also helped me access other services, including mindfulness and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT).  I am also due to have EMDR to help address some of the trauma. This was only possible through her support, as she helped me research therapies and gave me a voice to communicate my needs to the professionals.  

My life has now transformed. I get up, get myself and the kids ready for school and go to work. Something I thought I could never do. I have a healthy work-life balance and do my best to take care of myself with more than just pills. I never thought I could be happy again but I can honestly say I am in the best state of mind I have ever been in.

I cannot thank my advocate and VITAL enough for the support they gave me. If I hadn’t had their help to access services I would probably still be incredibly ill with no support or worse. I owe VITAL my life. I can now cope with life and know the true value of having a community advocate.

I felt I needed to give something back to the organisation, so I began volunteering with them, meaning I was giving other people the lifesaving support I was given. I was taken on as a receptionist and then went on to become the volunteer’s organiser.  I am now not only giving community advocacy but also supporting volunteers to deliver this valuable service. I cannot stress how much this kind of advocacy is needed. How this support is saving lives and keeping people in the community with this VITAL support. Please support VITAL to continue their amazing work.