Jess had grown up with no real positive role models in her life. Her mum was an alcoholic so home life was generally chaotic. Jess was in Foster Care from the age of 13. The only influences around her were negative; gangs, drugs, and generally getting into trouble and making some bad choices.
At 15 she was encouraged to do a Princes Trust Course to try and modify her behaviour when schools couldn’t cope with her. When she was 17 her mum passed away and her lifestyle continued to spiral with her nearly ending up in prison with many people seeming to give up on her. By this time she was in independent living and had found herself a partner.
It was also around this time that her sister mentioned that she attended the gap*s Venue drop-in. Jess found it ‘somewhere to be’ and that the people who ran it were ‘on the level’.
After attending for some months she approached us to say she needed to make some serious life changes. She was now on medication for her mental health, which was helping to stabilise her. She felt she needed to get her functional skills sorted as she had missed a lot through not attending school. Jess became a student on the gap*s AdaptED project and has been working on her Maths for a few months. She would like to get qualified and do some kind of practical job... In the long term she would like to work helping young people.
Chelsey used to attend the Venue a few years ago with her friends. She was a bright young lady and a loyal friend but her friendship group at that time were not the most focused of young people and maybe not the most positive influences on her. After a period of not coming up to Venue, Chelsey re-appeared last year to ask if we could help with her choices as she was about to finish school...we were honoured to have her come to us and to find out that since last coming to Venue she had made choices and changes in her life, focused on her school studies and was looking at what she could do when she leaves. After discovering she was very skilled at carpentry, we directed her to an apprenticeship through our partners, Jericho Foundation who took her on and gave her the opportunity to shine in this field of work including being under the tutelage of a renown wood sculptor. She finishes her apprenticeship this year and already has some plans for what to do next. We at the gap* are extremely proud of her and the way she has made her own choices to improve her position, has gained confidence and is realising her own amazing potential.
When Natasha first came up to the Venue, she was a young lady with very low self esteem. She barely made eye contact with anyone who spoke to her. She was a victim of cyber-bullying during her studying for her A-Levels and, over time, we did our best to encourage and support her whenever she came up to the Venue drop-in. Natasha began to make her first genuine set of friends through some of the youngsters that also attended Venue.
When she was in desperate need of a work placement for school, we helped set her up with our local Community Hub where she worked on reception and helped with some of the family based events that were held there. Whilst she was on this placement she took the opportunities to enrol herself on a number of short courses that she felt would help her gain experience.
After this experience, Natasha agreed to come out on a social action Mission to Romania with a gap* leader and some gap* volunteers. During this week she gained experience in working alongside children with and without disabilities, in prisons, alongside the homeless and also had the chance to realise her creative skills by decorating the walls of one orphanages with a Winnie the Pooh mural - this was something she was very proud of.
By this time Natasha was in a relationship with her boyfriend and ready to re-sit her school exams which she past with very acceptable results... discussions were regularly had about what she would like to do as a job in order to help give her some clarification. She was encouraged to apply for University and with some assistance from us she applied and got accepted into Wolverhampton University to study Psychology as well as getting herself a part-time job in a local shop. In 2016 Natasha completed her degree getting a First in Psychology! She has now taken on the role of tutor/therapist for a number of children with Autism. We are immensely proud of Natasha (as are her family) and all she has pushed herself through to achieve, and we know this young lady has so much more to offer.
Growing up around Mental ill-health (Patricks's journey)
Growing up is often difficult but can feel worse when all the pieces of your personal jigsaw of are missing. Missing either because they have been withheld or equally worse- you weren’t aware they even exist. My missing piece was not being able to understand why family life was different for me compared to others. Why would I go and see my mum in hospital and she not recognise me or anyone else.
As a young person I did not understand. No one explained anything to me. So I grew up not knowing why these things were happening. The missing piece was understanding! The stigma of mental health was there but no-one was ever talking about it to me.
Because of this, I felt a lot of shame, rejection and anger. I withdrew from people and often took my anger out on myself or even those closest to me. To be honest it’s only when, as an adult, I attended a Mental Health Awareness course that I first started to acknowledge to myself that it’s actually OK to talk about it. When someone actually gave me an opportunity to talk...it was an opportunity to finally understand. I was part of a discussion within a group context of helping young people to come to some kind of understanding, but realised that I was actually helping myself!
This experience has helped me to cope with the stigma of having a family member diagnosed with mental health issues. We need to be aware that help is out there and that the situation you find yourself in is not your fault. I found that the ability to talk about it has helped me to help others and that is what I want to continue doing.
Kirk was a young person who regularly came up to the Venue along with a couple of his mates. As a group they were not intentionally troublesome lads though we needed to keep a regular watch on them as they could get up to mischief if left totally unchecked! Chatting with Kirk on a regular basis helped build a trust that allowed his to start to share personal things about himself and his family. His use of recreational drugs was always an issue and he would often tell us stories of run-ins with the Police though himself had never been arrested... as time went on we saw less of him and when he did return, we was doing casual work with a landscape gardening company. He once spoke quite seriously of trying to start his own business in this area but despite our offer to help him in this, it never quite worked out. Kirk is a very articulate young man and likes to debate issues. He also has a very engaging personality and holds strong views on certain subjects however, he is always wiling to listen to others.
Kirk did eventually get serious about having full-time employment and being able to pay his way. He is currently still in and out of casual work in both the construction and landscape gardening. We are quite proud of how Kirk is maturing as a young adult and we believe he has yet to reach his full potential. He has been happy to talk about how the gap* has guided and encouraged him though the years.