Thirty-one year old Colin Evans, from Rochdale in Greater Manchester, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2003, aged 20.
After several spells as an inpatient and with his dream of a military career in tatters, Colin struggled to come to terms with his condition. He couldn’t see anything positive about his future and began drinking heavily.
5 years after his diagnosis, Colin’s community psychiatric nurse told him about Making Space. He explained that the charity could offer supported accommodation and help him gain independence, and referred Colin for help.
Colin was offered immediate support with counselling, occupational therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help him build his confidence and come to terms with his diagnosis. And, just a few months later, he moved out of his parents’ home and into Making Space’s supported housing in Rochdale.
At Hope Court, Colin was provided with the help he needed to take the first steps towards independent living, including support with benefits and tenancy-related paperwork, budgeting and bill payments, monitoring his condition and dietary advice.
“Before I moved into Hope Court, I was a mess,” remembers Colin. “I was at a real low. I wasn’t eating and my self-care was non-existent. I had become agoraphobic and felt very isolated.
“I’d been in and out of hospital so many times, I was desperate for routine and some sort of normality.”
Another major blow for Colin was realising he wouldn’t be able to pursue his dream of a military career.
“I joined the Air Training Corps when I was 13,” he says. “I had discipline, leadership skills and the drive to get into the Forces. Not being able to realise my dream was a huge blow. I still tried, though. An army doctor told me there was still a chance I could have a military career if I was stable - without medication - for three years.”
Those words were to haunt Colin. “I kept coming off my medication because I so desperately wanted to be OK,” he says. “And every time I stopped, I became more ill.”
It was only through support from Making Space that he was able to accept the reality of his condition.
“People can get delusions to dissuade them from taking their medication,” he says. “Mine was that it was part of a military recruitment test. It was only when I started accepting the help that was being offered that I was able to fight the delusions.”
With his new-found acceptance of his diagnosis, Colin started to rethink his future and made enquiries about getting back into education.
“There’s no way I could have done it on my own,” he says. “I’d have been reaching for the booze, not college prospectuses. I’d previously started courses in both Liverpool and Leeds, but both times I ended up returning home.”
But, with support, Colin gained a place at Manchester College to study A-Level maths and an access to HE diploma. An able student, he sailed through and, two years later, was accepted onto a Chemistry degree at Manchester University.
And, after 2 years in supported housing, he felt ready to take the leap into independent living , so moved the 14 miles to Manchester. With so many changes in his life – moving away from his family, returning to full time education, finding a new home - Making Space’s Manchester Floating Support Service was able to provide the continuing assistance Colin needed.
“My Making Space support worker, Wayne, comes to see me every week,” says Colin. “We’ll have a brew and a chat and he helps me with form-filling and works on stress management with me.
“It’s really important for me to have that relationship with someone who isn’t a peer, and who has an insight into my history. I’m stable now, although I do still get voices and I don’t think that will ever go completely, but Wayne helps me to manage things.
“Wayne and the support workers from Making Space offer me their time, and that time is precious."