John’s Story

*Names have been changed for confidentiality

The Befriending service provides emotional support to adults whose experience of mental ill health or emotional distress has left them feeling socially isolated or excluded. Trained volunteer befrienders are carefully matched with individuals with a view to develop a caring relationship. They are able to involve the individual in the community through a range of activities.

John* first contacted York Mind in 2009, suffering with social phobia and trust issues that meant day to day activities like getting the bus, chatting to people and doing his shopping were an impossibility. He had two blocks of counselling sessions before being referred onto the Befriender’s scheme.

He met with the new Befriending Manager who worked extremely closely with him to decide who would be a good match and in February 2012, John was matched with Sarah* and John’s life dramatically improved. “We got on like a house on fire and have lots in common”, he said, “I have had a lot of firsts in the past year”. Some of these firsts have been getting on a bus and train and going to the cinema for the first time in forty years. Although John admits that a bus journey completely on his own is still a bit too much, he and Sarah are working together to overcome it. “She has suggested getting off one stop before me and I travel the rest of the way on my own…It’s like climbing a ladder and taking baby steps…I couldn’t do it on my own”.

When asked what he has enjoyed most from the befriending scheme he says simply that “getting to know Sarah has been brilliant and the fact that she has got to know me so well as well”. Befriending has given John the opportunity to find real and lasting friendship and he happily admits that with Sarah’s encouragement, he has now attended five social events organized by York Mind and the Befriending scheme, when previously he did not have the courage to do so.

John likes to plan his time and keep organized so he and Sarah have already planned many activities such as going to Castle Howard, Whitby and back to Doncaster Zoo, which John enjoyed last time; “We’re going back as there are giraffes we would both love to see”. He and Sarah also decorated his flat together, choosing pictures and furnishings and painting the walls. John feels his new flat is very homely and that they both enjoyed working together on the project.

John feels that that within the past year, his ability to cope with his social phobia has come on leaps and bounds. He described Sarah as “gentle, non-pushy and doesn’t ask anything of me that I can’t do”. What she does suggest is that he tries new things and as a result, he has enrolled in a Healthy Eating Course. This will involve meeting lots of new people and experiencing situations that a year ago, would have made him too uncomfortable. Although he is extremely nervous about the course, John acknowledges that with York Mind and Sarah’s support, he will be able to take each week as it comes and not panic about the challenge. Sarah has also helped John to set up a bank account; it’s these little changes that have really improved John’s life.

The Befriending scheme has given John the opportunity to get back in to his community, to meet new people and to experience the day to day simple pleasures that he could not access before. “Seeing Sarah and looking forward to our time together gives me a euphoric feeling” he admits, “my trust issues may have been tremendous but I don’t run away from challenges anymore”.