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MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS | Paul's Progression Story
Paul’s Background

Paul was a once a manager of Tesco superstores, working in all different parts of the country. Unfortunately, the long hours Paul worked really affected his social life and he subsequently became very unwell. Paul was eventually diagnosed with severe depression and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act (MHA).

Paul moved to a flat in Barnstaple six years ago where care was provided by Atlantic Way Care, however he would not engage with the support workers. Paul has been living with a mental health diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and type 2 diabetes. He also has mobility issues. At one point, he went into such a dark place that he attempted to take his own life by overdosing on prescription drugs.

Up until December 2021, Paul had only been going outdoors early in the morning to his local Tesco to buy basic foods and cigarettes. He would then return to his flat immediately after. Paul had virtually cut himself off from society due to his appearance; his hair and beard had grown so long during the pandemic. Wearing a face mask became his way of hiding his appearance to others.

On occasion, Paul would venture out to the local Wimpy for a burger, but would order and stand back in the shadows, not wanting to socialise with anyone. He became known at Wimpy as ‘the burger man’ because nobody knew his name or anything about him.

The Need for Action…

An Atlantic Way Care support worker raised initial concerns about Paul. She reported not being able to engage with him on any support level and that his living conditions had become extremely poor.

Following discussion with the Registered Manager, it was decided the best way to deal with the situation was to raise a safeguarding and contact social services.

A social worker was appointed, a support plan was written up and recommendations were put in place.

At first this was not very successful as Paul would still not engage with the support given in his home, he would only accept his medication being dropped off at the front door.

The Registered Manager was contacted and another route to get Paul to engage was suggested. There was, however, concern about the possibility of having to end support as his needs were not being met in his existing environment.

At this point, Mark Howard, a support worker at Atlantic Way Care, volunteered himself as the core person to support Paul.

The First Steps

On day one, Mark asked Paul if he could come in to speak to him. Reluctantly, he agreed and let Mark in straight away. The flat was cold, damp, and unclean. Paul apologised for the condition of the flat and his unkempt appearance.

Mark observed that Paul was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, which had holes in it, and that he had not cleaned anything in the flat for a long time. Mark firmly explained to Paul that if he did not start to engage with his support, the contract would have to end.

Paul agreed he didn’t want that to happen as he was concerned this would result in him not receiving his medication – he believed this to be the main reason for his support hours. It was explained to Paul that his social contract and goals are based on more than receiving medication.

Eventually, Mark got Paul to agree support choices and goals: - The first thing Paul wanted was a haircut and his beard removing, with preference for a mobile hairdresser over a visit to the barber. - Paul also wanted a deep clean for his flat, so a colleague contacted a local cleaner and the clean took place. - As part of the clean of the flat, the cleaner secured a new bed for Paul – and a slow cooker - from a local donation website.

Mark asked Paul to share what skills he had and the things he would potentially like to engage with. When Paul said he likes gardening, Mark encouraged him to get back into this by utilising the lovely garden space at the back of the flat – an area that was once crowned the winner of ‘Barnstaple in Bloom’. This became the steppingstone for Paul to get himself back out into the community; something he could do outside but in the safe confines of his own comfort zone.

Slowly Paul’s life was getting back on track, although Mark discovered Paul had not had any health checks for six years and was evidently unwell. Mark contacted Paul’s GP and after some persuasion, a home visit was carried out with a check-up and flu vaccination given.

Following the visit, the GP raised concerns about the poor state in which Paul was living and so working together with Mark, a safeguarding was raised.

The Second Step…

Following the safeguarding enquiry, a social worker was appointed who made additional progress with Paul.

Mark also arranged for a home optician to call on Paul. The optician confirmed Paul was not losing his sight but recommended a new prescription as his eyes had deteriorated.

As a result, Paul got new glasses and was so happy he could now read a book and a newspaper again!

Around Christmas time, Paul asked for Mark’s support to go out into the community so he could buy his niece a present. He was very anxious but with Mark’s encouragement he overcome his anxiety and noticed people now looked at him differently to the way he felt they had before.

Paul was supported in arranging to have his first Covid vaccination at the Freedom Centre. He was so overwhelmed by the centre’s kindness and generosity, he wanted to stay in contact with them and he was soon invited to have Christmas dinner there. This was the first Christmas in six years that Paul had spent in the company of others, having previously sat in his flat alone having no contact with anyone. This was major progress.

The Third Step…

Paul made more progress as he began attending Grosvenor Church every Sunday, which he enjoyed.

Unfortunately, he contracted Covid and was in hospital for five days. Shortly after, he became very ill again, developing pneumonia. This resulted in a return to hospital.

Paul eventually recovered and returned to his flat but needed more support. The period of illness could have been a major setback in progression for him, but he knew he was now in a better place and was determined to get back into the community.

A Bright Future…

Paul has made contact with his stepfamily for the first time in 10 years. He is now seeing his father on a regular basis and has been supporting his younger brother.

Paul has been keeping busy and really becoming a part of his community, as well as giving back.

He has continued to visit Grosvenor Church, which has been a great social outlet for him, and he is training to be a street pastor.

He helps out at Gardens Within the Community and approached the council for them to consider his garden, and the neighbourhood garden, for the Barnstaple in Bloom Awards 2022.

Paul now helps the homeless in his town; he cooks meals for them and volunteers at the local Freedom Centre. He also engages in charity work for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and The Samaritans, including participating in NHS walking challenges.

Paul uses Facebook to support mental health social networks. He said I would like to share my experiences and help people get through life’s challenges and try to return the thanks and the help that I have received through Mark, social workers and Atlantic Way Care”

A Final Note

Paul’s life has completely transformed due to the determination and support of Mark. With the help from social services, together they have worked to get his life back on track.

Mark Howard is a National Care Group support worker at our Atlantic Way Care services in Devon who sums up Paul’s remarkable progression story by saying:

The moral to Paul’s successful progression story is to never give up on someone, even when you think there is no hope. The person they used to be is still in there - you have just got to make the right connection with them and empower them to make positive choices.”

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