“My mental health took control of me and my life for 13 years. I didn’t know what it was to feel happy. My world was dark and filled with detained hospital admissions for over 6 years, self- harm, suicide attempts and feelings and symptoms such as paranoia, hearing voices, and so much self -hatred that I believed I was no better than the dirt and dust under your shoe. I had no life, as far as I was concerned the world would be a better place without me.
“Today is different, today is beautiful. I have a life that makes me happy and that I am proud of, with many blessings. One of those blessings is New Horizons.
“It without a doubt is one of the most incredible places for those with mental health issues who want to piece their life back together and achieve an education whilst doing this.
“New horizons for me has been much more than a qualification. Completing the personal development classes helped me to rebuild my confidence, self- esteem and sense of self –worth. It helped me to believe that I could have a life that is good and helped me to set goals to achieve the life I now knew I was entitled to and deserved.
“New horizons for me was different than grammar school or university as the courses allowed for me to have blips throughout my recovery, without jeopardising the work I had done to date. I didn’t have to leave and start again the next academic year, I was able to pick up where I left of and continue my work without any judgement or pressure from the tutors.
“The people at New Horizons, both staff and service users, are a big part of what makes it different from the rest. When I am there it feels as though I am surrounding myself with good people, making friends with fellow service users and developing close bonds with the tutors – many of whom become a great support and are with you during your good, your bad, and your ugly.
“It’s a haven, a place that you can go and be with other people who have been through similar things and have a connection with feeling understood and accepted in a world where mental health can still be a taboo subject.
“I am proud to say I have achieved so much since joining New Horizons. I’ve gone from someone with no hopes for the future who wasn’t always able to sit through a two hour class or have a conversation with anybody due to serve anxiety, to becoming a client representative both at a local level and at the regional forums with the aim of improving the service. I now also attend the DEL disability strategy workshops that look at helping people understand the difficulties those with mental ill-health face in accessing services and gaining employment.
“Personally I now have a long term partner and we just got a house together with my very beautiful dog. I am due to start paid employment as a support worker for Leonard Cheshire Disability and I volunteer weekly for the 174 trust disability project working with their young people, which I have been able to use for my placement for my NVQ in health and social care.
“My mental health is the best it’s ever been – it no longer controls me, I control it. I’ve been self- harm free for two years and have been discharged and free from mental health treatment for the first time since I was 13.
“It’s no exaggeration for me to say that I wouldn’t be in the place I am now without New Horizons, the tutors and service users. It has changed me for the better and presented me with some excellent opportunities that I am so very grateful to have been given.
“Honestly if you met me back when I first started with New Horizons and met me now, you wouldn’t think I was the same person. I couldn’t function day to day in the community, I was determined to destroy myself, hurting myself at every opportunity, at times having to be watched by a nurse 24 hours a day because if I was left alone for a second I would self- harm. Kept in a room with nothing but a bed and not allowed outside for fresh air. I was effectively a prisoner and my mental health was my captive.
“Thankfully my life looks very different now. New Horizons gave me a purpose, a reason to fight for life and get up each morning. The structure the service provides has been a great tool to my recovery. Having a selection of education focused, personal development and creative courses has been just what I needed and helped me to build upon every aspect of my life.
“It has been hard work but as I reach each one of my goals it has most definitely been worth it.”
New Horizons is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy.