07 Apr BLOG: Russell’s Story
Here at Oakleaf, we encourage our clients to share their stories and experiences so others can see that they’re not alone in the challenges they’re facing:
“I first heard about Oakleaf from staff at Farnham Road Hospital, who recommended it to me as a safe space to go to learn to connect with people who are dealing with similar circumstances to myself. At the time I was very withdrawn and suffering from severe social anxiety after a long period of isolation and depression. It took me a little while to work up the courage but eventually I went for a meeting with the Oakleaf team, and I am so glad that I did.
“The team were very friendly and understanding. They showed me the activities and courses that were available and suggested that I might enjoy their gardening training, which involved going out once a week with a group of other clients and volunteers to work at customers’ houses. This was a great experience as it allowed me to work as part of a team and make friends, all while learning new skills. There was a classroom theory part where I learned safety procedures and plant identification and the gardening team that ran the course were very kind and great fun to work for. It also added some structure to my week and gave me something to look forward to.
“Alongside the gardening, I was able to take part in activities such as: yoga, meditation, Tai-Chi, pilates and mindfulness which gave me the skills to manage my anxiety and depression as well as improve my physical health, which was not great when I started. The activities were run in small groups by trained instructors and many of the people I met there are still my friends today. I was also offered a course of counselling which lasted 12 weeks and this gave me the opportunity to process thoughts and feelings in a safe space and gain perspective on my life.
“The team were all really understanding and supportive when I was going through a very difficult time. Even after I left, the team continued to contact me throughout the lockdowns to check that I was okay. Their kindness and dedication to helping people has really changed my life and I continue to use the skills I learned at Oakleaf to manage my mental health on a daily basis.
“ One of the results of my experience at Oakleaf was that I decided to apply to college and I am now in my third year and studying for a level 4 diploma in counselling and psychotherapy. As part of my qualification I will be doing two years of placements that will hopefully be at Oakleaf, so I will be able to offer clients the same opportunities that were offered to me. In 2021 I was asked to do 2 online workshops for Oakleaf clients on self-massage for the head and hands to promote wellbeing, which was a great experience for me and seemed to be really appreciated by the clients who attended. Shortly after this a position became available as a support worker at the Safe Haven mental health crisis drop-in centre that is based at Oakleaf and run in partnership with Catalyst and the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation. Annalise from client services contacted me to say that the team had thought of how the experience might be beneficial for my studies and that my lived experiences might make me a good candidate for the position. I have now been working at Safe Haven since November 2021 and have really enjoyed my time there working with the team and the clients and the experience that I have gained is incredible. This is another example of how Oakleaf have gone above and beyond to support me, first as a client and now as a member of the team.
“I cannot thank Oakleaf enough for the services that they provided for me and continue to provide for people who desperately need connection and support.”
– Russell Lewis, Oakleaf Client
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