Name: Clare

Age: 19

Location: Belfast

Programme: Reach Out

 

“I was not in a good place with my mental health - my anxiety was so bad that I wasn’t leaving the house, I had completely isolated myself and didn’t take part in anything. I had really low self-esteem and no confidence. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me.

 I wasn’t coping - I just locked myself in my bedroom and closed myself off from the world. A close family member who had been through the Reach Out programme themselves asked the team if there was anything they could do to help me.

One of the staff came round to meet me at my house and told me about the support they could offer, and I agreed to be referred to the project. I have been involved with a number of other supports in the past but Extern have a very different approach - they don’t give up!

Other services stop if you don’t turn up, but Extern understands that you can have a bad day, and they keep trying. The first day going into the Extern project I thought it was going to be so nerve-wracking, as I always struggle with new surroundings, but everyone was so welcoming, understanding and supportive.

I was always used to getting sympathy when I went for appointments, which made me feel like I was broken or there was something wrong with me. Extern don’t make you feel like that.

I started off with some one-to-one support with my keyworker to understand my anxiety, and they helped me develop coping skills and build my confidence to use them.

Now I am able to leave the house on my own. This might seem like a small thing to someone else, as it is something that others take for granted, but it was a massive barrier to me before and I feel like I have freedom now. I now recognise the opportunities that I have, and have decided to continue on as a volunteer with Extern.

 I have learnt so much, as I have had the opportunity to do so many different things, from health events to creative workshops and helping prep for sessions. I am developing all the time and starting to see this as a pathway to employment opportunities that I had never considered before. It’s a brilliant opportunity to gain experience.

 For anyone facing the same challenges as me, I would just say to them that I have been in their shoes, that I have been through the Reach Out programme and it really works, and that it has genuinely helped me.”

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