Millie's story - YMCA DownsLink Group

Millie’s story

Ex resident Millie smiling at the camera

Millie had a difficult childhood which impacted her mental health and resulted in her leaving home at just 16. She was given a home in our 24-hour supported accommodation and life began to improve when she received the wraparound care and consistent support she needed. We helped Millie repair her relationship with her family and eventually to move back in with them. She’s now come full circle and is rallying her local community to collect donations to give to young people living in our supported accommodation this Christmas.


Millie tells us her story in her own words:

I was a troubled child. I caused a lot of problems in the household, but a lot of it was due to my mental health. My parents struggled to understand my mental health. Police and paramedics were regularly being called when I ran away or had an episode which took a massive toll on my family and resulted in me being unable to continue living with them. I stayed with my nan for a bit but she’s old and couldn’t look after a teenager who was struggling.

I was 16 when I moved into the YMCA and I was there for a year. It was somewhere to stay at a time I needed it. It was a home. It’s such a lovely place and it really helped but I was struggling with my mental health at the time.

I was in hospital quite a lot and paramedics were coming to see me. But YMCA was always supportive and when it got to a stage where I wasn’t really safe with items, they would put them away for me and make sure my room was OK for me in that moment. And if I ever need anything, someone would stand there whilst I’d be cutting up my food or whatever it was. They’d always make sure I was ok and check up on me. Even just “Hi Millie, how you doing today?”. Little comments like that helped massively.

I felt extremely supported and it was nice that it was 24 hours. Usually in the night I’d struggle more than I did in the mornings and there was always someone there. It’s reassuring that you’re never on your own.

Ex resident Millie with her old Project Worker Eammon
Millie, reunited with her old Project Worker Eammon.

There was someone called Eamonn who was my Project Worker, he was the loveliest man and very funny. If I came down angry or stressed, he’d put me straight. A bit like a fatherly figure which was nice. It was just nice to have someone that I could go and talk with about my struggles. I was drinking a lot when I was in there, I was doing a lot just to try and get by. I remember one time I was very drunk in the morning and Eamonn came on shift. I think I must have been outside, I don’t really know much of what happened, but he saw I was outside and he got me inside, made sure I got to my room and that I was ok. It was really nice.

Eamonn even set up my e-mail address to help me find a job. I also met good friends there too who were in the same boat. And if you ever needed a chat, you could all go down to the sofas or the office and have a little chat.

I used to get involved with the YMCA chaplaincy meals. We had a few chaplains visit us each week. Every Wednesday they used to cook a meal. You would always get invited to join in. That was nice because you know that one day a week you’re not going to have to cook and you can just sit there and chat. And if you need to speak to anyone, there’s loads of them there.

We all had our own kitchens in our little flats, but there was also a shared kitchen where they used to do cooking activities for us all or teach us how to cook things. I learnt a lot of skills that I would probably never have learnt. Eamonn taught me how to cook duck which was brilliant!

In the year I lived at YMCA, things changed for me. I matured as a person. When I went in there, I was a 16 year old who was struggling. When I came out, I was a different person. I still had mental health difficulties which never really go. But now I just know how to cope with it. When I came out of YMCA, everyone said to me Millie, you’ve done really well.

YMCA also helped me repair things with my family. If for example I had a row with my mum on the phone or by message, I would always go to one of them and say, look, this has just happened, what should I do? Or I’d go down in tears. They’d never tell me exactly what to do but they’d always give me advice on how to cope with that situation which was nice because otherwise I would have gone off on one, and then it would be even worse than it should have been.

Life after YMCA

Once I left YMCA I moved back in with my family. Then lockdown happened which was difficult, but I still stayed there with them. They recently decided to move across the country. I said that I’m not starting a new life again, I’ve done it too many times before, so I found a place to live on my own.

I’m loving living independently. I now work two jobs. One in a care home and one at a pub. I went travelling as well and would like to go back next year which is why I picked up the bar job as well as the care home – to save up money and to learn skills that I can use to get a job while travelling too.

Christmas box donations

The boxes that Millie donated, all wrapped up in Christmas wrapping paper. Each is filled with essentials and treats for our residents this Christmas
Just some of the many boxes filled with donated essentials and treats, dropped off by Millie this week.

I was in the pub when I came up with the idea of donating boxes of gifts to YMCA. I saw something about the Love in a Box campaign which happens every year at YMCA and I thought, if I received a box full of goodies at Christmas while I was living there, it would have made my year. It would have given me that little bit of faith in people and humanity. I thought, I could do that. I came up with the idea and then started doing it, putting it on Facebook and asking for donations. People are coming together for it, dropping off bits and pieces.

I thought it would be a nice thing to do, to know that someone’s receiving something they might not receive otherwise. It will include some essentials like food and toiletries, but also some treats like chocolate and other goodies.

There’s a craft house down the road from me and I’ve spoken to them and they’re all making personalised Christmas cards for each resident so it’s a bit more special than just the box of gifts. The community have been great, rallying around it all.

I want to give something back to YMCA because of how much they helped me. When I had literally nothing, they were the ones that gave me everything.

If it wasn’t for their support, anything could have happened. After everything that they’ve done for me, I just wanted to give back.

I’ve changed massively. I look back at pictures from when I used to live at YMCA and I was a lot bigger when I was in there and you could tell from my face that I wasn’t happy. And now I look at pictures and in every picture I’m smiling, a proper Millie smile like I used to when I was a kid before everything happened.

What’s next?

For me now it’s a case of living in the moment. It will be what it will be and tomorrow is a new day. I’ve been through too much to plan ahead. My dream was to be a nurse and I technically could still do that with the qualifications the care home offers me. But if that happens, it happens, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

That was the mindset I came out of YMCA with. You just don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow so you have to be happy with today and be happy with yourself because when you’re happy with yourself, you start being kinder to others. And then you start to like yourself more.

YMCA gave me a fresh start to life and a whole different outlook on life rather than just this is it, this is my life and I’m going to be stuck.

YMCA was a good place, it helped me when I was in the worst position I could have been in. And I’m thankful for all the staff, particularly Eamonn. I emailed him to let him know about the Christmas boxes and it put a massive smile on my face to hear back from him and know that he still works at YMCA.

I’ve also just signed up to do a skydive with YMCA in March. I’m so excited! I’ve done one before last year for another charity. I wanted to do it again because it’s for such a good cause. And I love an adventure. Life is too short. You have to live in the moment. (You can sponsor Millie’s skydive by clicking here)


Cost of living crisis - make a difference to the life of a young person today by donating

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YMCA enables people to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit. Inspired by and faithful to our Christian values, we create supportive, inclusive and energising communities, where young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.

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