Our third story on how the Wellbeing Programme has helped with mental health comes from Jess, once a participant on the programme and now on a traineeship with the Trust. Written in her own words she describes how the programme has given her "a living space for positive change."

Jess's story: "A Place for Positive Change"

I was referred to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's Wellbeing Programme by an occupational therapist at the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) in spring 2015. I had been under the care of mental health services since early 2012, when I was diagnosed with suffering from a period of acute psychosis.

When I joined the Wellbeing Programme I was still feeling pretty lost in life but had started to get things going with voluntary work and being creative. For a while I volunteered in the offices of the charity Plantlife, which helped me during an extreme period of depression.

I wasn’t sure that being with the Wellbeing group would be relevant to me, but I already knew someone on the programme and thought I would give it a go.

Looking back now I can say that joining the Wellbeing Programme was one of the best things that I have ever done. On the first day I felt quite nervous about meeting the group at the pick-up point. I wondered about the others on the group, "Who are they?" and "What are their experiences?", and I also wondered if I would just continue to feel a bit lost. I had started driving again by then, but just getting on the bus and being open-minded about what I was doing, felt really liberating.

As we drove up over a hill, I saw that I was out in the open countryside with beautiful views; I felt overwhelmed with relief and my eyes were streaming with tears. I just kept looking out the window feeling a bit self-conscious about the fact that I was tearful, but there was no problem and no-one appeared to notice or question me.

For my first task we were at Hazel Hill Wood, clearing and piling felled wood and building a fire with the smaller branches and bracken. There was this great feeling of support amongst the group, and we just got on with the task. I remember feeling so good afterwards, for just having been outside and giving myself the space to be with other people without pressures or insecurities.

One of the great things about being with the group is that physically and mentally I can put in as much or as little as I feel able to on the day. This makes it easy to attend especially when I have felt that many other things in my life are not manageable. There have been times when I have had so many things going on in my head, that just getting out and focussing on a task or listening to, and catching up with, other volunteers calms me down.

From being involved with the Wellbeing Programme I realised how much I value being, and working, outside. I started volunteering at Hazel Hill Wood and with the Riverbourne Community independently from the programme. In the summer of 2016 I also had a job at the Wyevale Garden Centre in Wilton, and with Catherine Thomas, a Salisbury-based garden designer. Volunteering with the Wellbeing Programme definitely started this progression.

I returned to the programme as a Volunteer Support Assistant to help the team deliver the activities, and I have recently started a traineeship with the Trust. This will give me the opportunity to continue to learn about the natural environment. I will also be building my skills within this sector and hope that I can also put my creatively to good use.

To anyone who is thinking about joining the programme, I'd say just give it a go. You have nothing to lose and all the staff are so helpful and easy to talk to.

In one sentence I would describe the Wellbeing Programme as "a living space for positive change" as that is what is has given to me.

Get in touch          

If you feel you would benefit from joining the programme, or know someone who might benefit, please get in touch with us. We run groups in Wiltshire and Swindon. Call the office on 01380 736 098 or email us for more information.