Becoming grounded again

Some major changes, a daily structure and lots of small steps are helping Sara to find greater stability.

Going into lockdown was a major adjustment for all of us, but for Sara it sparked a mental health crisis. She struggled to look after herself and was self harming. Her local psychiatric team and social services suggested an emergency move to supported living with 24/7 support available. Sara agreed, moving into supported living in April 2020.

Sara’s fluctuating emotions, colourful language, and other behaviours led to a diagnosis of Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder as well as depression. However, the team at her supported living accommodation in Dorset has years of experience of supporting people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions. Expert training enables them to work with people to find ways of being able to live well with various health concerns. The team was focused on ensuring they developed excellent rapport, and a trusting relationship with Sara.

Building blocks

Lacking self-motivation or drive to look after herself, Sara relied on her support workers to help her rebuild her life skills. These included self-care such as washing and keeping her room tidy. It soon became clear that what Sara found most helpful was structure and predictability. Accordingly, her support team encouraged her to write down tasks and thoroughly plan each day. In addition, they set aside time every evening for Sara to come to them and talk about her thoughts and feelings.

Lots of small steps helped Sara’s mental health to improve and her support team worked with her to look at different aspects of her life, setting mini goals. She started to cook on her own (rather than with support) once a week, which became twice a week.

Opening up

Sara says: “I was not in a good place when I arrived. I didn’t want to be living anymore and had voices in my head. It took a while to get my diagnosis but now I’m slowly getting there. What really helped was opening up and talking to the support team and having little goals to help me manage how I feel.”

Night times often used to be hectic for Sara, whereas now she relaxes before bed with a sleep mediation app. Gaming was another behaviour trigger, with Sara finding it difficult to tune into the real world after being immersed in online fantasy. The team encouraged her to take time away from this and become more involved with activities in the home.

Busy hands, quiet mind

There are lots of activities to take part in at the house, from playing pool to art sessions. Sara is especially fond of Diamond Art, attaching colour-coded 3D shapes onto a canvas to create a shimmering picture. “I’ve made quite a lot of pictures. It helps me to really relax,” she explains.

Each Friday night the housemates and support team gather for a party themed around a different country and the week’s activities often focus on this, such as painting flags or making costumes. These help Sara to become more grounded and more in touch with her emotions. She also enjoys the party complete with themed food and music!

Sara also enjoys going out with team members, especially shopping. At weekends, she sees her boyfriend, with whom she used to live.

Annexe living

When the self-contained annexe became vacant in autumn 2022, Sara was keen to move into it. Using a goal-oriented approach, she and her support team worked towards this. Little by little they sorted out cupboards, made lists of things she would need and shopped for new items in readiness.

Tori Wilkinson, Home Manager says there is a noticeable difference in Sara since having her own space again. “Her mental health is so much better and she’s more positive. We waited until she was really comfortable with the move,” she says.

Although more independent in the annexe Sara is still supported with daily tasks and planning her daily cleaning schedule, weekly menu and shopping. Like everyone, she has days that don’t go so well but now she has much more positive coping strategies. She’s encouraged to reflect on what happened and create steps and goals to reach by the next week.

“I like my new flat as it’s comfortable and I can go into my own space. I’m learning how to live on my own again and doing things for myself, but if it’s overwhelming there are people here to help,” explains Sara.

Next steps

Tori says: “I can see Sara volunteering somewhere in the future and we are working with her to build her confidence in herself and her abilities. She is already working in the office with me, answering the phone, filing and reviewing her support plan weekly.

“Moving into an independent flat in the community is also a goal for a year’s time and I’m pleased to say that she has already chosen us to provide her outreach support when she moves on.”

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