“I am showing people there is a way out of the dark pit that is depression."



Karen's story

I had just moved to the Stockton area, I didn’t know the area or anyone here. I felt very isolated and I didn’t feel like I could leave the house without my partner. I was experiencing anxiety and depression, and I was low in confidence and self-esteem. I felt like I didn’t matter.

I knew something needed to change to help me move forward.

One of the previous mental health support groups I was a part of contacted Step Forward Tees Valley for me. Together with Laura, my navigator, we came up with a plan on how the programme could help me move forward.

Laura put me in touch with Alliance and Mind who both helped me get the support I needed to cope.  

I began to go to the Knit and Natter Group, a free group which is held in Stockton. It was a good way to meet people. I really enjoyed this and my self-esteem and confidence grew. I began helping others in the class which I enjoyed.

I attended more training courses and completed food hygiene which helped me focus my thoughts, increase my knowledge and inspired me to think about how I wanted to shape my future in being self-employed.

I was growing in confidence and socialising and it was at this stage Laura asked whether I wanted to volunteer. I said I did. I worked with Community Heroes, volunteered within FRADE, making and putting up Christmas decorations in their stores and cooked for the homeless during Refugee Week.

I used the skills and confidence I’d gained to begin running my own workshops, planning the session, making the instruction sheets, demonstrating what I would do and helped people do it themselves. 

I ended up running three chocolate making workshops, teaching and leading groups of people.

I then completed a course on holistic therapies and I’ve now enrolled on two pottery courses.

I was very flattered to receive an award at the Changing Lives Award Ceremony for the volunteering work I’d done and for my workshops.

After just over a year, I became a sessional tutor with WEA.

One of the best things about being a part of Step Forward Tees Valley is that I was never pressured into doing things I did not want to do - suggestions were made and I chose what I wanted to do at my own pace."

Read more about volunteering here