Finding our connection to the world again
I feel really proud of our work here at Penumbra. Being able to spotlight the voices of lived and living experiences is a privilege. We always talk about our work being life changing. But most often I’m struck by how we make a difference in ways that seem hard to measure, but which mean so much for each person. Nicole spoke in her film about hospital being a scary place. She says that the Edinburgh Crisis Centre gave her a place of safety and comfort. The support helped to make life bearable for her. Bearable might not seem like a huge win. But for Nicole it means she can be ok with life in the present moment, and she talks about how being a poet helps her to own her experiences. Everyone’s situation is different, but time and again I see people’s experiences touching on similar ideas: being listened to, validated, not being judged, finding a voice to self-advocate. Or as Darren puts it, “they helped me feel cared for”.
Being there to help each person out of the darkness and to slowly find their connection to the world again.
Why do we share in this way? Because we have important things to say about mental health. And we need to create a space for people like Nicole and Darren to be heard. People’s stories to inspire hope that life can be worth living. There are so many awful things happening in the world, but these incredible humans give me hope that there are good forces in the world.
My role in comms means I get to build relationships with so many lovely humans, both colleagues and the people we support. Like Heather from our HR team. Heather explains that speaking to different team members every day from different backgrounds gives her a feeling of pride in being able to contribute to such an inclusive organisation. She’s inspired by the work everyone does, and makes it her ‘daily mission’ to ensure everyone knows how amazing they are and how much they’re appreciated. Heather tells me that she feels privileged everyday coming to work and talks about her excitement at continuing that journey with Penumbra as a place that’s close to her heart. Big congratulations incidentally, because (drum roll please!) Heather has just completed a degree qualification and takes on a well-deserved promotion. We absolutely could not be prouder of her.
The social care sector is full of skilled and professional people like Heather who are in it to make a difference. I think that’s probably one of the benefits of working where we do. We’re not service driven. We’re driven by our values and wanting to always improve for the people who access our support. So we’re always encouraged and supported to continually develop and learn. Or to grow and thrive as Heather puts it. Of course, learning on the job is no small task, but it can make all the difference motivationally when you have a supportive manager and employer.
It’s something that resonates with Connor too who says that working in mental health gives him a work environment where he can thrive, where he’s supported and where he feels valued. Connor is one of our brilliant peer colleagues in our Aberdeen team, by the way. He describes himself as living proof that you don’t need to have it all set to a plan when you leave high school, but it’s good to know what you’re passionate about.
I ask Connor about the rewards of his role and he tells me that he’s met some incredible people going through incredible hardships. For him, just being there for each person and having even just a small impact in their lives is what it’s all about. He tells me that nothing compares to the heart-warming feeling of helping defuse a dire situation for someone.
Being there to help each person out of the darkness and to slowly find their connection to the world again
But what about the people we support, what do they tell us? I check in with wonderful, compassionate Lili, a practitioner from our suicide bereavement service in Ayrshire. She tells me that many people have told her how much they’ve appreciated the bespoke nature of the service we provide. She talks about the impact on that person of being able to build up a trusting relationship with someone after their world has crumbled. She describes how getting to know the unique way in which each person would like to be supported is very special.
What Lili said got me thinking about Catherine’s story. Catherine shared her journey with us as a blog and she talked about a visit to Kelvingrove Art Gallery our team were able to arrange for her. She’d visited the gallery 51 years earlier and it became a place of safety in her mind during a very difficult and dark period of mental ill health. She described how, for the first in time in 30 years, she felt like a new person. The visit was very special for Catherine because she had been living with a life limiting illness, and she explained how she’d be able to look back at the photos she took of the day when she becomes unwell. She knew she’d be able to remember the fun she had and how good she felt. I got the sense from her at the time that she took real comfort in that.
The stories of the people we support is what keep us going as a team. But perhaps my colleague, Aniena, sums it up perfectly when she says, “I have always been in a finance department, but now being with Penumbra, I am doing finance for a bloody good purpose. Waking up in the morning now for the first time in my life, gives me a sense of belonging”.
This blog is being published in Catherine’s memory.
For more journeys, please visit: penumbra.org.uk/your-journeys