This company specialises in bringing young people with mental health issues back into the community. This shows that with a little time, patience and the right attitude anyone can flourish.
CW first came to us when she was 17. Experiencing social isolation, depression and chronic anxiety she lived with her family who were experiencing their own problems and CW had become virtually a recluse. Under the care of the local Mental Health Trust she was referred to an employment specialist who could see that due to her high levels of anxiety, she was far away from being ready for employment. CW one day arrived here with her employment specialist. We could not see her face because she had covered it with her long hair and was crying uncontrollably. For some weeks CW would present in the same way and it was difficult to reach her, but eventually we did and she slowly began to trust a few people and initially worked with a female mentor making handmade greeting cards. She then was encouraged to try learning some photoshop work in the design area and with her mentor began to relax as she enjoyed working with images sourced from the Internet.
2015 AND A BOOK LAUNCH
During the following year we worked on helping to build her confidence and she was supported by her mentor to volunteer at a local Theater assisting with window dressing and serving ice creams during the interval of a children’s show. CW had written a couple of books during her period of isolation and her mentor then supported her with the creation of a cover for a book she was trying to get published.We were all elated on discovering that a publisher had shown an interest and when she shared this information with the Theatre Administrator, he offered to let us use the Theatre for a Book Launch using 2 local actors to read extracts from the book to bring it alive. Members from BCP and our supporters as well as CW’s family attended the launch that was very professionally produced using a preview video made by CW and a close friend. The story was covered by the local paper and was a big achievement. This was in February 2015, and CW now 19, was starting to grow in confidence.
During the summer of 2015, we introduced CW to the finance side of the company and she had begun learning invoicing and reconciling the till when her mentor (me) was suddenly hospitalised with a stroke. CW attended BCP for one day a week and coped admirably with working on her own until her mentor was slowly able to return.
In the latter part of the year, the local Council made a proposal to us to fund some of the wages for 2 apprentices and CW was identified as one of the people who would benefit from this. Having a long-term health condition meant that CW could take advantage of the Essex County Council diversity scheme for apprentices which meant that the apprenticeship could be managed over a period of 18 months with a shorter working week of 3 days.CW not only had to get used to working for 3 days a week and work through the tiredness but also had to overcome her fear of taking exams and attending college but ITEC, the training provider was very understanding and supportive. They regularly came to us to monitor CW’s progress and were always pleased with the content of the course work set and exam results.
CW completed her qualification in time, in November 2016 and obtained a Level 2 in Business Finance and Administration.
GROWING WITH CONFIDENCE
During these 18 months CW was, on occasion, attending business networking breakfasts and events, supporting our Outreach Director in delivering external courses to businesses and helping with promoting the business in general. She found it very difficult to find the confidence to speak to people she hadn’t met before but gradually, very slowly, began to overcome this. In November 2016, CW accompanied me and another Director to Westminster in London, where we delivered a presentation to an ACAS breakfast as we had been featured as a case study in their report on managing mental health in the workplace. This involved staying overnight in a hotel, again something CW had not experienced before. In February 2017, CW played a valuable part in setting up the equipment and managing the slides for a power point presentation during our workshop that was co-produced with and delivered at the University of Essex. In front of some 30 delegates, who were mostly employers from around Essex, CW facilitated one of the sessions. She felt extremely anxious but we were very proud that she took up the challenge despite feeling terrified. CW’s biggest accolade, however, was winning an award from the Training Providers, ITEC where she was runner up for Apprentice of The Year and it was a proud moment to witness her going on stage to collect her trophy and pose for the camera. Something she would never have done even a year before.
With the funding expired, CW continues to volunteer with us for one day per week still working on the finance side and is currently mentoring one of our volunteers who is in recovery from mental illness. CW is also using all the skills learnt to start building a business with her mother. All the facets required to do so, from company logo design, advertising through social media, marketing, networking, promoting, knowledge of cash flow and maintaining accounts have all been learnt during her apprenticeship.
We are very proud to have been part of the journey and very thankful to the local Council for giving us the opportunity to make a difference.
We all wish CW every success in her new venture and a bright future ahead.