Steven Smith worked in high pressure property sales for over a decade. He now works at Making Space as a support time and recovery worker and has never looked back!
When Steven was made redundant after the 2008 financial crash, he lost his footing and found himself experiencing a breakdown. Debilitated by depression and social anxiety, he stopped leaving the house or properly looking after himself. "After my redundancy and being unable to find alternative employment, I also encountered a number of other setbacks in my life in a relatively short space in time. This resulted in a downwards spiral with regards to my own mental health, leading to me having a breakdown. I developed both depression and social anxiety disorder as a result of this, which absolutely crippled me. At my lowest I shut myself away from all my friends & most of my family, basically not moving from my room all day for many months unless I really needed to."
His best friend Andrew, who also works for Making Space, was becoming increasingly concerned about Steven's wellbeing and suggested he contact a local employment service for people with mental health conditions. "After referring myself to the service, I attended an appointment with an amazing advisor, who after speaking to me felt I would benefit from attending some self-help courses being run by an amazing local charity.
"I was extremely cautious attending my first session but after the completion of my course I really felt like a changed man. I'd grown confident from interacting with people again from being in a group and had learned some great coping strategies in regards to my anxiety issues."
After much soul searching, and another heart-to-heart with his friend, Steven decided to leave behind the stressful sales environment and find a job where he could give something back. This is when Steven’s Making Space journey began. Initially nervous, Steven found he took to the part time job quickly, enjoying listening to residents' life stories and helping them to get the most out of their days.
But Steven knew he really wanted to work in mental health full time, and kept in regular contact with our HR department. After 4 months, a full time position became available and he jumped at the chance of getting the role. 3 years later, Steven now works at Greengate House in St. Helens.
He is open with residents about his own mental health and he says it helps to break down barriers. "I just want to help others with mental health issues lead a better quality of life. Mine haven't gone away, but I do manage them better. I like it though when someone thanks me for my help, it gives me a sense of satisfaction that I've made a difference to their life, however minor. The people who use the service say they see me as someone on their wavelength rather than an authority figure because I am open about my own mental health issues with them."
But one of the main pieces of feedback he receives from residents is why is he the only male worker? "They would prefer more male staff as they don't feel confident telling female staff about personal problems, especially "men's problems. This causes an issue on my days off as sometimes residents wait until I'm next in and they may be sitting on a serious health problem”.
"We currently have 12 male and only 1 female resident, but apart from myself and the cook, all the other staff are female. I do think we need at least another member of staff who is male, but I understand recruitment is very hard. I didn't think I was qualified, but you'll be surprised how much you can contribute. We desperately need more men in social care."
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