Richard - has Asperger’s Syndrome coupled with a history of Body Dysmorphia, Bulimia and associated anxiety issues. Here is his story of how his life was transformed after his experience of Stepping Stones’ counselling/therapy/ mentoring services sympathetically delivered by the support staff:

“I had a rocky time at school, which took its toll on my mental health, then went to university in a different town, which really blew me out.

I started to struggle – trying to find my feet in a strange place and not feeling 100% - and became more and more insecure. At the end of my first year at University, I was diagnosed with Depression, wasn’t eating and was not in a very good place. I contacted the department at college which dealt with these sorts of issues and although they did their best to try to help, the approach did nothing to alleviate my issues. Then a member from Stepping Stones stepped in to cover maternity leave. He was much more approachable and supported me in a way which helped me directly rather than simply sticking to protocol.

One of the things that helped enormously, was his intervention in dealing with North Essex M/H Partnership Trust, who had me doped up to the eyeballs with a cocktail of pills, so much so, that I developed an allergic reaction, my muscles going into spasm when I panicked. They threatened to section me, but it was only the allergic reaction which made me feel so bad, which they didn’t understand. The support staff member stepped up and battled on my behalf, and NEMHP backed down when he explained the context of how I was feeling.

He understood me completely and was able to get straight back to where we left off each time we met. He had a holistic approach to helping me – a mixture of counselling, academic mentoring and therapy and became more like a family friend. His college too, helped in sorting out my flat, which I found I was unable to cope with.

Through my relationship with the support staff, I was able to get through University and got a 1st class BA honours degree in Drama and Literature. Then when I was doing my MA in Literature, I became involved with a bad person, who tried to break into my flat. Again, Stepping Stones stepped in to help, by letting me have a flat over the road to where a couple of the support staff lived. This strengthened my trust in them further, their approach being much more informal and neighbourly. They helped me get back my independence.

I then went on to do a PHD in London but I kept in touch with Stepping Stones so that when once again, I felt a little insecure, living in unfamiliar surroundings, they found an old friend from university to flat share with me, who knew about my mental health issues and was able to offer informal support to help me through my degree.

Stepping Stones Community have done so much in helping people deal with mental health issues and since my time at University, they have widening the scope to include supported housing.

I am now living in Manchester and have been accepted on Tesco’s Graduate Management Scheme, which offers a promising career in retail. I owe so much to Stepping Stones Community – I wouldn’t have got through University and wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for them. I can now cope with the odd wobble; I no longer suffer with Body Dysmorphia and now have healthy eating habits.