SAMH Gateways Service offers a variety of approaches for helping those experiencing mental health and addiction issues. It has been documented that a large number of people undergoing such difficulties often find themselves isolated from the wider community, something that the service’s Tools for Living programme attempts to address by offering a series of eight separate modules that encourage individuals’ re-entry into the life of the community.

These modules are flexible so that individuals can access them according to their own specific needs and time considerations. The aim, as staff-member Kirsty told me at last Wednesday’s taster session, is “to get people out”, thereby helping them to develop the tools necessary for making positive changes in their lives.

A recurring theme of the session was that isolation is a “vicious circle”: people who suffer from any number of mental, physical, financial or circumstantial factors may find themselves disinclined to socialise, to the point of even not wishing to visit the local shop. This, though, worsens their self-esteem, making them even less likely to engage in society.

Tools for Living attempts to reverse this unhealthy cycle: low self-esteem undermines confidence, and a lack of confidence perpetuates a person’s low self-esteem. The way to break this cycle is to move from negative to positive thinking.

Following a discussion of confidence and self-esteem, we moved on to the theme of anxiety and stress, where an interesting distinction was made between anxiety (an often unfocussed and residual fearfulness) and stress (an adverse reaction to the pressures of particular situations). In both cases, however, sufferers experience similar symptoms, both mental and physical, and often resort to the overuse of stimulants such as alcohol or drugs in order to cope.

One of the benefits of being referred by a GP to Tools for Living is that it can be an amazing relief for a person to discover that they are not alone – that others have experienced similar situations and symptoms.

This identification with others is one way in which participants can begin to overcome the issues that have led to their isolation. But the modules offer many other techniques for regaining a sense of control over one’s life.

Having endured some very stressful situations in my own life during the last couple of years (to the point where I can understand how a variety of factors can lead a person to isolate themselves), I found the session hugely inspiring and very moving. It is incredibly heartening to know that this service exists for those who most need it.

Kirsty’s colleague John left me with a quote that I felt summed up Tools for Living’s whole ethos. He said that a participant, upon starting the modules, had told him, “You’re the bus driver, I’m just the passenger.” To which John replied: “No, I’m your Sat Nav. Where do you want to go?”

Tools for Living really is a service that enables people to re-empower themselves and choose where they want to go in life. I couldn’t have left the session feeling more encouraged.

by Mark Jones

Based in Greenock, Mar works as a freelance copy editor and proofreader. His interests include reading, writing and history, and he has a Facebook page – Mark Philip Jones: Strange Information & Other Wordy Obsessions – to share and promote some of my writing.