“There was a spark within that spoke to me” – Billie-Jean’s story


Billie-Jean found our Derbyshire Recovery and Peer Support Service (DRPSS) when her psychosis and depression became unmanageable. Here, she made fulfilling friendships, getting involved in a number of activities, from photography courses to gardening groups. She now proudly works in peer support, using her passion and experience to help others.

There were so many moments that I could have given up and sat in the corner with a coffee and a cigarette, amounted to nothing and merely coped with every day. But there was a spark within that spoke to me in volumes.

I knew, have always known throughout all my struggles, that if I could help people after I’d been through my own personal hell, that if I could inspire people with hope that things could get better with some elbow grease and some belief in themselves, then it would’ve all been worth it. And this drove me onwards to achieve more than I ever expected.

I found Rethink Mental Illness in my twenties, during a big breakdown in my mental health. I was sectioned aged 17, following three to four years of intense traumatic experiences one after the other. I could not work, became isolated and depressed. My psychosis became unmanageable and after a difficult time in my mid-twenties, I entered a state of mental crisis.

  • My dream of helping others and inspiring hope using my own experiences is a reality thanks to Rethink.

I was not sectioned this time (thank goodness). Instead I was offered respite in a crisis house. There I accessed daily CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and a staff member casually mentioned a drop-in centre run by Rethink near where I lived, for people with mental health problems. I self-referred to Derbyshire Recovery and Peer Support Service (DRPSS) once I returned home. The staff there were so kind and understanding, completely non-judgemental, and the other people attending the support group were very welcoming.

I quickly tapped into a social network and made some good friendships. This led to facilitating groups for DRPSS including welcoming people to the drop-in, planning and running a photography course which lasted approximately 10 weeks, volunteering for conservation projects locally, and running a gardening group.

At one point I approached a Rethink DRPSS staff member and expressed a desire to return to work. I quickly acquired a paid position within the Rethink office as a Bank Staff member, answering calls on the Emotional Support Helpline. It was my first toe-dip back into paid employment after several years of unemployment, and it gave me a huge confidence boost. The transition from using the service to working for the service was not without its own challenges but I persevered.

  • I quickly tapped into a social network and made some good friendships.

This helpline was unfortunately discontinued, but fortunately the Living Well project later hired me on a part-time permanent contract. I now sit comfortably within my team and work 14 hours per week, have undergone training courses such as Mental Health First Aid, Understanding Autism and Suicide Bereavement, amongst others. These are opportunities I am always grateful to be offered.

My dream of helping others and inspiring hope using my own experiences is a reality thanks to Rethink, for seeing in me what I at times could not see in myself. My potential has been recognised and successfully harnessed. My role as a Peer Support Worker is full of challenges and rewards. I am incredibly proud to be a part of such an inspiring team of hardworking and compassionate people who strive for the rights, recognition and empowerment of people suffering with mental health problems.

Peer Support is a relatively new role, although already nationally recognised, and it is helping to break down stigmas and challenge attitudes and cultures. I am so grateful to be a part of it and to be given the opportunity to share my story.

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