Tom’s story: For me personally, when I first came into contact with Gateway the stigma was a factor in becoming a more active member. I would have a tendency to distance myself when my health is not good but this would distance me further. I am now very settled within Gateway and know most of the members.
Sometimes I have found on my way there the pattern of negative thinking can overwhelm me, but once I am socialising with other members, my mind settles into the now and my mood picks up with it. Why does this happen? I believe there are a few unwritten rules amongst members in Gateway, the first one being a complete understanding of the challenges that face someone with a mental health difficulty. As all members know, it is not just low mood and sadness that affects someone suffering from poor mental health; they can also have very high mood, hyperactivity, grandiosity, fast speech, poor judgement and many more.
My experience has been mainly of depression. I have always been an extroverted person and could mix easily. But when my mental health is not so good, I still feel the need to be an extrovert and this can often backfire as I can be a handful. Most members will recognise this behaviour and overlook it and see it for what it actually is but the real world is less accommodating. Now I am more at ease and will be able to benefit from, in my opinion the best therapy there is available – ‘other people’’ and a feeling of shared circumstances strengthens this feeling.
This is why I believe Gateway provides an invaluable service – a place to provide peer support. Though I believe most members overlook the value of the support provided to one another.