I hadn’t worked for eight years but before that I’d been in employment all my life. I was working in a garage, got made redundant and started working for myself as a mobile mechanic. It became too much pressure financially and although I used to thrive on pressure, it was too much. My brother died and there were a lot of things going on. I started self-medicating with alcohol. It was part of my social life and I used it to get over the depression. I had a nervous breakdown and was taken to hospital. I just lay in bed, couldn’t get up. It was like being buried alive. I attempted suicide. I was a full blown alcoholic. I tried to keep on working but my life was a mess.
The turning point was asking for help. I went into a treatment centre for seven months. I came out and they suggested I find something to do. I was referred to FST who offered work placements and that’s where it started. If I hadn’t gone down this path I’m not sure where I’d be. It was the kick start I needed.
For me work means being useful, being part of something. I’ve always had the ability to do things but being given the courage to use it was important – I couldn’t do it on my own then but I can now. FST gave me a manageable amount of responsibility and this gave me self worth.
In terms of other mental health services – there’s nothing like this. This is a business and you’re a part of that business – it’s not a therapeutic environment, it’s a work environment. It was put to me on the first day, if you want to get back to work and get some self-discipline this is the place to be. There’s no treatment here apart from integration. The pressure has been good because that’s real life.
The skills you get from working at FST are totally transferable. I like the complicated jobs. When I worked before I had a niche market – it was electronic diagnostics. I’ve had to cram about eight or 10 years of knowledge to catch up because things in this industry move at such a pace.
Dealing with customers would have been frightening two years ago. I couldn’t face people. But it’s part of the job and I love it now. I’ve never spoken so much in my life. Sometimes I ask another workforce member to ring up for a part and I can see the fear, and that fear was in me before so its important for people to be given the opportunity, because if I’d not been pushed I’d be still laying in bed.