Gary was living in YMCA supported housing when he was referred to YMCA Positive Placements, following a breakdown in relationships with his family. Before living at the YMCA, Gary suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stemming from childhood abuse. Following on from this he had been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Borderline Personality Disorder.

At 23, Gary was a regular visitor to the mental health crisis team at the local hospital suffering from suicidal ideation, sleep problems and night terrors. Gary decided to seek help from the YMCA as he was using cannabis excessively to cope with his trauma. He was worried about taking too much of his medication as he had started to black out and have no memory of what had happened. He felt he had no friends or family support and his anxiety was so bad he was worried what he might do.

In January 2016 Gary was matched with a YMCA Positive Placements mentor to help him make sense of what he called his chaotic mind and life, and to see what steps could be put into place to find out what his passion was and where his future may lie. It really was the first time Gary experienced having a stable, consistent adult in his life, helping him to form an idea of a path for him.

Small steps were taken for many months and Gary still presented suicidal ideation on a few occasions. Through the mentor, and YMCA DLG housing staff, appropriate support was provided to Gary at these times including walking him to the crisis centre and talking to him on the phone. Throughout all Gary’s low times he and his mentor always maintained contact and met regularly.

Gary then started volunteering at a council run country park. Here he discovered he loved being outside and maintaining the gardens and woodlands. So he became a Volunteer Park Ranger. The team really supported him there and understood his mental health issues. With the support of his mentor and the country park team he applied to do a Diploma Level 2 in Environmental Conservation at college… and got in! This is something Gary never thought he could achieve.

“I now don’t feel so all over the place, I now have a goal and something to focus on. My mentor has helped me to work out where I want to get to and how I can get there.”

In 2017 Gary completed his diploma and could not believe he had done it.

“I’m still in shock that I got a diploma! I am not sure how I managed to do it, I achieved something!”

With the support of his mentor Gary realised he could move on with his life. He was referred to a mental health recovery centre which he attended three days a week. Here he received intensive support for his PTSD, GAD and Borderline Personality Disorder. Gary carried on volunteering and also started doing gardening and farm work through his new recovery centre. During this time he also started sleeping for eight hours a night which massively helped with his mental health.

After two years of working with his mentor Gary decided that it was time to continue his journey independently. He now had the support he needed from his recovery centre. Here he would be able to get intensive help for his mental health and start on a journey towards employment.

“Thank you so much for your support. From where I was when I started the mentoring, to now, it’s unbelievable. I am still in shock that I got the diploma and now I know I am where I need to be. It’s going to be a long process but I would not have got to this point without my mentor. I will get there, it’s been so up and down but my mentor persevered and no one else ever did.”

Gary’s mentor said,

“I am so proud that Gary persevered and the way he handled his mental health team was amazing. Together we have got to a point where he has the right support in place. Gary’s aim was to start his journey to heal his mental health so he can get a job and cope with everyday life. I am so pleased that now Gary is sleeping every night, walking his dog every day, attending his recovery centre three times a week and still volunteering.”

In the future Gary wants to continue with his mental health support and look at his next steps. He feels this will involve doing his Level 2 Maths and English and then look at getting into tree surgery.

We wish Gary every success.

*Name and photo have been changed to protect the identity of the young person.