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Posted on Feb 27 2023 by Fiona Bailey

A former primary school teacher, who decided a change of career was in order, has spoken of her joy at helping a patient with dementia. 

Having experienced mental health illness, Jo York wanted to find a way she could use what she had learnt about her condition to help others.  By joining St Andrew’s Healthcare’s REDS Recovery College as a Peer Trainer, she is able to use her lived experience of mental health illness to fulfil this role.

Here, she talks about why she wanted to work for a mental health charity and the impact she has already had on one particular patient.

"The REDS team has fully involved me since my arrival, and I am very grateful for all of the knowledge, support and guidance that I have received. This has aided me to keep myself well, following my own struggles with mental health. They have also been instrumental in introducing me to the various divisions within the Charity.

"Having identified the amazing resources REDS provide, I set myself the goal to make their courses and booklets accessible, purposeful and enjoyable to everyone, regardless of their diagnosis, symptoms or illness.

Through my own personal experience of being a mum to a teenager with additional needs, I recognised how important REDS could be to lots of people out there.

"As a former teacher, I have realised that I have lots of transferrable skills which I’ve been using to adapt the REDS ‘Managing my Wellness’ booklet. I’ve done this by creating short and interactive content, which can be personalised by using the learner’s interests to help keep them engaged.

"A patient in Lowther, who lives with dementia, has a great passion and gift for literature and poetry. I’ve been working closely with this patient and they have become very motivated by our sessions. I’m thrilled that she has started to create several beautiful poems which relate to our recovery focused discussions; such as using our senses to enhance wellness, key values, achievements and setting goals.

"Recently we talked about the benefits of setting manageable goals, and how fantastic it feels when we overcome some of the barriers that can get in our way, enabling us to successfully reach our goal. The scaffolding structure, key vocabulary, poetry, conversations and pictorial images all motivated the patient to create an inspiring acrostic poem using the word ‘success’.

"The patient enjoys our sessions, and to build up that connection and relationship through poetry and personalised interests with a focus on her abilities, not limitations, has been incredible. We always leave our sessions with a little bit more positivity than when we started.

"Recovery is not about cure, it is a personal and individual journey which enables us to live alongside our symptoms. Although no one can change the outcome of dementia, Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s Disease; with the right provision, language and influences, we can all change the journey to make it more meaningful and satisfying."

Success by a patient on Cherry ward

Show the world where you are at.

Understand how to get over the obstacles that are in your way.

Can do it by showing them.

Complete everything that you do.

Everyone bring your life back on track.

Show everyone that you are doing fine.

Slowly getting back to the way you were.