Thursday 25 May 2017

"Emmaus is my life. It's that simple."


“I was diagnosed with bipolar 13 years ago whilst I was in prison, and to be honest, I class myself as one of the lucky ones.”

Around 1 in 100 people suffer from bipolar disorder in the UK; companion Neil (35) shares his story:

“My drug problem began when I was nine years old, and for 24 years I battled with addiction. During that time I was in and out of prison and homeless. I class myself as lucky because often people in my shoes – homeless with an addiction – have their mental health overlooked.”

Neil’s symptoms were first noticed during a routine medical check-up whilst in prison:

“I’d been seeing the medical team in prison to help me with my addiction and the doctor began to notice my symptoms were more than just the side effect of drugs. I’ve always suffered with my mental health and as a child I had ADHD which was never officially diagnosed. After being diagnosed with bipolar I was moved to a hospital for the remainder of my sentence.”

Unfortunately things didn’t work out for Neil, “I continued to struggle with my addiction, mental health, and being homeless until last year.” Neil had spent a number of years living street homeless in Aylesbury, Wycombe, and Oxford. “There was a homelessness shelter in Oxfordshire that I used to visit. One day they referred me to Emmaus Oxford.”

“I went along to the community but unfortunately there were no spare rooms, but they called me up to tell me that they had a place for me at Emmaus Gloucestershire. I was thrilled. The feeling of waking up in a warm bed to a breakfast and hot shower on the first morning will stay with me for a long time.”

“As soon as I joined I was surrounded by doctors, counsellors and mental health support workers. Everyone at Emmaus is treated as an equal. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to Emmaus for the support they have provided me with.”

“With bipolar you are prone to suffering from manic depression. When I was homeless it’d be happening nearly every day which was scary. I wasn’t only a risk to myself, but also to others. Now I’m proud to say that it happens only about once a month.”

After eight months at Emmaus Gloucestershire, Neil moved to Emmaus Dover where he built a strong rapport with his Support Worker: “She’s been brilliant. If I’m ever having a really bad day I can just give her a call. I’m currently helping out at Emmaus Burnley for four weeks, but she’s always at the other end of the phone if I’m struggling.”

Neil is pleased to see that mental health is being given more recognition: “It’s great to see things like Mental Health Awareness Week, but more needs to be done. I’m a firm believer that homelessness, mental health problems and addiction are all linked. I just hope that more support can be put in place to help homeless people with their mental health.

“Emmaus is my life; it’s that simple. They’ve always been there for me. In my eyes I’ll always be indebted to Emmaus for the support that they’ve provided me. They’ve helped me deal with my bipolar and to thrive in the community.”