Charlotte* was referred to our South Tyneside Supported Housing team whilst she was still living in a Mental Health Hospital Rehab Centre, sectioned and detained in the hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. Charlotte had really struggled to manage her Bipolar disorder, and had been in and out of hospital for around 12 years. Throughout all of this she had very little support from friends and family, which made it even harder to manage.

Charlotte last had a stable place to live back in 2013, which came to an end when, due to a particularly bad period of health, she tried moving away to live with some relatives. This did not work out as planned, and Charlotte had to return to the North East where she struggled with homelessness. For several years Charlotte moved around between homeless hostels, sofa surfing and periods of living on the street. All of this of course took a toll on her mental health and she was eventually sectioned and admitted to hospital in 2015.

Due to her past difficulties, Charlotte couldn’t be discharged from hospital until suitable supported accommodation could be found for her. This resulted in Charlotte actually being in the hospital several more months after she felt recovered enough to want to move on.

Luckily Charlotte was referred to our Supported Housing team, and while she waited for suitable accommodation to be found we began to support and prepare her for a planned discharge under a community treatment order (CTO).

Close up of hands pointing at a piece of paperWe were all very pleased when local organisation Changing Lives offered Charlotte a tenancy, and we all worked together on a ‘multi-agency support plan’.  She began her phased discharge into the community, taking things gradually with all the support she needed from Mental Health Matters, Changing Lives, Adult Social Services and the CMHT. 

Charlotte’s new flat was unfurnished, and the only furniture which she owned was an old sofa-bed that had been in storage. It was not in good condition and made it very hard for Charlotte to sleep well, leading to her being prescribed sleeping medication. The lack of storage in the flat also had a real impact on Charlotte’s mental health as a messy environment severely affect her low mood and Bipolar; when she is struggling, she loses motivation to keep things in order, which makes things even worse. We successfully applied for some funding for Charlotte to buy some basic furniture and items that she needed to make her flat a home.

The seemingly simple fact of having a place to hang her clothing, store her belongings neatly and a comfy bed to sleep in has had such a positive impact upon Charlotte’s mental health and helped her to create a safe, stable home environment. This provides the stability she needs to cope with her Bipolar, make a success out of this tenancy and stay well.

This stability has meant Charlotte can start to make some really positive changes to her life. With a lot of support and encouragement from our team as well as her own strength, she is now no longer alcohol-dependent and is trying hard to reduce her smoking. Charlotte also turned to us for support when changes were made to the benefits system, as the stress of this really affected her health. We helped her with the forms and appointments to resolve the issues she was having, and Charlotte said she wondered how she would have coped with these set-backs without our support.

Now that Charlotte is receiving the benefits she is entitled to she has begun to go to a local sports centre for exercise, and when she told us that she wasn’t confident enough to take part in the fitness classes alone, we happily agreed to support her by attending some with her.

two women sit face to face talking in a bright roomBecause of her experiences in the past Charlotte finds it hard to trust and engage with people, but over time she has built up a great working relationship with our staff. When we first met Charlotte she was very different, struggling to make eye contact or engage in conversation. Now she feels able to easily call us for a chat, open up to us and talk through her concerns, saying this has a huge positive impact on her wellbeing. Our staff who have worked with her since the start of her journey out of hospital have really noticed how far Charlotte has come, and it has been such a pleasure to support her throughout her journey so far. She has no family support and very few friends in the area, so without us she would be very isolated in times of need. This is the longest period Charlotte has ever had without a hospital admission, and we’re so pleased for her.

"MHM staff have always been consistent in being there for me with whatever I need."

Charlotte said, “Without the gentle push from my support workers at MHM I would not have given up drinking. Thanks to MHM they have really helped my wellbeing without being overpowering. I don’t handle change very well and find it difficult to engage with different people, but MHM staff have always been consistent in being there for me with whatever I need."

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* This case study is from a real client of MHM, but the names have been changed and the photo has been staged by an actor to protect their privacy.