Alicia Clarke is excited. A new permanent job awaits her. Alicia, like most people, enjoys working. It gives her a sense of purpose and achievement, it allows her to be financially independent. She thrives on both the creative and the social side of her job. Working is an important part of her life and who she is.
But Alicia has also lived with anxiety and low mood. The devastating impact of this on her life, led Alicia to realise that she needed to take some time out from employment to focus on her mental health. After making the huge decision last year to leave her job, Alicia sought support from Action Mental Health at their ESF funded ‘Working it Out’ project, based at AMH New Horizons in Belfast.
Speaking about her experience Alicia said: “I joined Action Mental Health during lockdown and took part in their online programmes. It was great, I joined their virtual choir, took part in history classes, cooking classes and even worked towards qualifications in Equality & Diversity and Motivation & Resilience, plus loads of other courses.
“These have provided me with new skills and tools to deal with my anxiety and helped to rebuild my confidence. The project provided structure to my day, gave me purpose and the opportunity to learn new skills while polishing up old ones – I really enjoyed all of it – it helped me find my feet again.
“I left the project to start working again and have just finished a temporary role. Due to Covid, I had to work from home for this job which helped ease me back into employment. My job interviews have also been virtual which reduced my nervousness as I was able to remain in the comfort of my own home.
“I’m very grateful to Action Mental Health for the support they offered during lockdown. I have learnt so much this time, I know I now have the skills to stop my anxiety becoming overwhelming in the future. How do I feel right now? I am excited for the future.”
Karen Quee, Service Manager, AMH New Horizons Belfast, said: “We are delighted that Alicia has gained so much from the ‘Working it Out’ project. Statistics show that one in five adults in Northern Ireland will show signs of mental ill health and Alicia is a very good example of how with the right support and focus it is possible to rebuild and move on to bigger and better things. We would encourage everyone to seek support if they are struggling with their mental health, together we can work towards a new tomorrow.”
The Action Mental Health ‘Working it Out’ project is part-funded through the NI European Social Fund Programme 2014-20 and the Department for the Economy.
This case study is part of the ‘Making it Work’ project – a partnership project with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Union of Supported Employment which aims to highlight the employment support services available to disabled people in Northern Ireland.