My first steps on my journey into this placement were when my IPS employment specialist, Uche, began to support me in searching for work. Uche listened carefully as to what sort of career path that I wanted to take and acted by finding me relevant positions to apply for and helping me to fill out my CV.

When I began to become disheartened about not being able to find employment, Uche would refocus me with his proactive and positive perspective. He would be in contact, usually by phone, at least three times a week; this really helped as I was able to update him on my progress and share any concerns.

Uche had found me an interview with Rethink Mental Illness as a Wellbeing Support Navigator. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, it was an interview via a webcam, and even though this was not my first webcam interview, it was certainly the most natural interview I had done.

In the past, it was difficult to express myself fully over webcam because of the delay in time, unwanted echoes etc. The project manager’s interview style allowed me to demonstrate who I was. I was able to be clearer and more concise as I found that she had expressed interest in my answers. I felt comfortable having to do the interview via webcam as Naomi showed patience with the limitations of technology.

When I began working as a wellbeing support navigator, I found that my work environment would be amongst staff on the front line of mental illness. E.g., Nurses, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Occupation Therapists. I was really taken aback that the peer support roles would be used in such a high precision environment, and I wanted to re-pay that trust with my best efforts.

My manager was effective at helping me to find my feet as I was able to convey any questions or concerns and get effective responses or actions right away. My first few weeks consisted of essential training which I did within the full working environment. This helped me to pick up the types of work practices my colleagues used whilst getting to know my colleagues and their roles. Bit by bit and consistently over time, my responsibilities increased.

Parts of the role that I did not think I would be good at; I was suddenly doing without looking back and I was able to challenge and push myself forwards.

Holly (Occupational Therapist) Jackie (Occupational Therapist) and Naomi (project manager) are all incredibly receptive to either my concerns or my ideas. Holly and Jackie have been so approachable and use positive risk-taking to help encourage my progress. They do not hesitate to offer training or advice if I am finding a new task complex or daunting. Likewise, if I am confident with a process, they allow me to excel and work under my own initiative.

A few weeks in, I was asked if I would like to progress into full time employment in the role. In preparation for this, I was supported through my an IPS employment specialist to get a benefits calculation to ensure the change would be financially beneficial.

The role transitioned into full-time over a few weeks so I could adapt to the additional hours; review whether the hours would be manageable; and supported to keep a healthy work/life balance (especially as I have a pet at home with me).

Naomi, Holly and Jackie are always available for any questions or worries which means I am able to overcome any problems or concerns in a short matter of time. This really helps as it means that I do not get stuck at any point.

Having a weekly one to one meeting and filling out a Wellness Action Plan (WAP) means that I can gain perspective on what I have been doing, how I am doing it and how I feel. I am able to identify any concerns or obstacles and put in place strategies to overcome them. Medical appointments and blood tests are supported within my reasonable adjustments to reduce the pressure when scheduling these.

I quickly felt integrated into this team, and I have never been in a workplace like it. At first I did not understand the insistence to be open but now I recognise that this has allowed me to be an effective employee. I have been in role created for mental health lived experience before, and I honestly feel like this role and the work I am delegated to participate in is not a ‘faux’ role just because of my mental health issues.

The team have treated me equally. They do not see a disability, but a colleague and this is hugely motivating for me. I am supported at work, but I am not labelled at work. The training, the weekly one to ones, the attentive staff, and the WAP plan have all given me a consistent secure ground to walk on and self-assuredness to propel myself forward.

Uche – Robin’s Employment Specialist

Robin is very motivated and has a great eye for detail. Robin lost his confidence when a previous opportunity was put on hold due to Covid, but I was so pleased when he continued to engage and grow in confidence. He is incredibly creative and insightful, and I have learnt a lot working with him.