“I am positive for the future."


John Paul's story

"I joined Step Forward Tees Valley in February 2017. I had undertaken paid work before and I had done a lot of volunteering work. One of those jobs was working at a Middlesbrough radio station editing and doing background work. It was really interesting.

However, I had stopped the voluntary work and I was staying at home, staying away from other people. I did a placement for the Job Centre but I really struggled to talk to people and felt very isolated. I found it difficult to socialise and mix with other people.

At this time, I didn’t have a lot of confidence or belief in myself. I was anxious and I thought I would be stuck in the same place which made me feel very nervous. I would find it difficult to start a conversation with people. I found out about Step Forward Tees Valley through the Job Centre. I thought it sounded interesting and I would give it a go.  

After having my first appointment with my navigator and finding out about the support I could receive, I felt a lot more positive about my situation. I was surprised what this programme could offer in terms of support compared to other programmes I had been on previously.

One of the things Step Forward Tees Valley did was put me in contact with Mind who were really helpful. They got me out and mixing with other people and gave me one-to-one support. I was nervous about the appointment, especially as I was going to be meeting someone new, but they were really friendly.

Mind helped me develop coping mechanisms and I also attended an art group at ARC. I found it difficult to go along at first but people began to share their experiences of mental health and this helped me feel less alone.  

After building up my confidence, I was referred to Changing Lives and got involved with their Community Heroes events. I helped at Norton Sports Village, helping improve the garden and outside area.

I didn’t really have an interest in gardening but took the opportunity to socialise with other people. I enjoyed it. I also took part in a walk up the Cleveland Hills which was very challenging but rewarding.

One of the biggest things that happened was that I received a Community Heroes award for the contributions I made at the events. I also received an award from Mind for my achievements on the Step Forward Tees Valley programme. This was presented to me at an awards ceremony by a local MP. I hadn’t expected so many people to be there, but I was able to get up and receive my award in front of everyone attending. I was really glad I went.

I also volunteer at Stockton Library. It involves helping out with general duties once a week. I enjoy the challenge and the experience as well as finding it really interesting, especially learning about the history of Stockton. I also volunteer at Roseberry Community Consortium. I help with supporting the staff with their jobs and their social media events. I really enjoy the volunteer jobs, it’s great to be helpful.

One of the challenging things I did was a work placement at Cleveland Housing Advice Centre. I was  on reception and was also doing general duties. This helped me develop more skills.

Through all of the volunteering, events and work placements they’ve arranged, Step Forward Tees Valley has helped get me out a lot more, gain skills and knowledge to add to my C.V.

I am feeling a lot better and feel like I have more purpose. I am going to keep building on my skills. I would like to find a job and I feel more able to get one. I feel more positive about the future."