Hannah Nutting, a former teacher, has lived experience of mental health crisis. The 29-year-old recalls waking up one morning a year ago and finding herself unable to get out of bed.
Speaking about her mental health journey, Hannah explained: “It started properly about five or six years ago. I always thought that my mental health problems had come from teaching, as I think it’s well known that teaching is a stressful job, so I put it down to stress. I was backwards and forwards to my doctor for a number of years and was on various medications. It was always just attributed to the stress of the job and then a couple of years ago I really started to notice the decline. My anxiety was really getting the better of me and that’s when the depression really started to hit as well. I left teaching in the end because of it. It was then that I realised that something needed to change. At the same time as that I went through a divorce. So, I left a job, left a marriage, left a whole life. Everything seemed to fall apart really quickly, and I didn’t have the mental reserves to be able to cope with it. I was at my lowest point and I couldn’t even get out of bed. I didn’t want to be here; I wanted it all to end. I really didn’t know what to do or where to turn. It was that cliché that I didn’t think this would ever happen to me.
“I rang my doctor who wanted me to go down, but I couldn’t leave the house, so I rang my mum and just poured it all out. She drove me down to the doctor; the next few days after that were all a bit of a blur, I was tired, mentally and physically drained.”
The doctors referred Hannah to the Care Trust’s First Response service. Hannah continued: “We had a telephone interview and they decided to send someone out that afternoon to assess me and see what kind of support I needed. The First Responder put a plan in place to keep me safe straightaway and signposted me to different services and one of them was Haven.”
Desperate to avoid being admitted to hospital and losing the power to make her own decisions, Hannah credits Haven and the peer support workers there for helping to get her life back on track. She says: “I owe my life to Haven – and the people around me would agree. As soon as I got to Haven and spoke to Emily, the peer support worker, it made such a difference. To suddenly have this amazing person sat in front of me that understood was just the best feeling. It was the first time I actually felt some hope. When you say to someone ‘I didn’t want to wake up this morning,’ and they aren’t shocked, and they say, ‘yeah, I get that, I’ve been there, I understand that’, it was immediate empathy. Everything poured out in that session, years of everything that I’d built up, it was like a lifeline. I felt safe, I felt heard, I felt understood.”
After the first session Hannah received a follow-up call 24 hours later and was invited back to Haven for further sessions where she was offered additional support. Despite initial reservation about joining a Haven peer support group, Hannah reluctantly went along. She explained: “I remember walking into the room and thinking I won’t have anything in common with the people here; it was such a diverse group of people from all walks of life, and by about half an hour into the session I was sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings and saying ‘well I felt like this’ and to have a perfect stranger sat next to me saying ‘I felt like that too’ was just magic. I went every week for eight weeks. As a group we helped each other through it and it was facilitated by a peer support worker. It was such a powerful and life changing experience.”
A year on from being in crisis and making the call to the First Response service, Hannah is now in the process of completing her master’s degree in psychology, having been inspired to help others through her own experience of mental health. Wanting to give something back, Hannah has also trained to become a peer support worker at Haven. She says: “I’m in such a different place now, I’m working as a peer support worker, studying for my master’s and hopefully going on to do a PhD, I’ve found my passion and it’s mental health. It’s made me see the importance of sharing my experience because I know how powerful it was for me. I remember sitting and talking to Emily, the peer support worker, and now I want to be someone’s Emily.”
People in crisis can access Haven via the Care Trust’s First Response Service, telephone 01274 221181.