Wigan woman says mental health organisation saved her life
She has battled severe mental illness for many years and praised the group she says has finally been able to help her.
Kelly Atherton, from Standish, shared her harrowing story to highlight the work of Bridging The Gap, which was set up by Kieran Jones from Bamfurlong.
The 40-year-old spoke about how she had fought against suicidal thoughts for years and struggled to come to terms with being abused.
She said it makes a huge difference to people struggling with mental illness when they are offered a peer-support model.
Bridging The Gap’s approach, which includes live sessions on social media such as TikTok, mental health ambassadors and first aiders and support for people going through the system, is based on the way Kieran battled through recovery when he was struggling himself and now offers the same thing to other people.
While Kelly lavishly praised Kieran for the improvements he and his organisation has made to her outlook and life he modestly said it is the service users at Bridging The Gap who do all the work to turn their situations around.
Kelly said: “I’ve struggled with mental health since I was little. I’ve always felt like my life didn’t mean anything.
“I had tried everything. I had cognitive behaviour therapy and that didn’t work, I went to groups in Wigan and they didn’t make any difference.
“I came across Kieran when he was going to do a Tough Mudder.
“He said he had a Facebook page and I went to take a look.
“When I was really low Kieran would talk to me until I felt I could carry on with the day.
“He would talk to me at night and reassure me that I was somebody and my life mattered.
“He rang me on Christmas Day and talked to me because I was struggling.
“If it wasn’t for Kieran and Bridging The Gap I wouldn’t be here today.
“Kieran has got me over the last 18 months. If something was bothering me I would message him. I haven’t had a relapse since Christmas Day, touch wood, and I’m in a much better place now.
“He knows what it’s like, he understands what people are going through.
“He encourages you and turns negatives into positives.
“There are all these little things that make you want to talk to him.
“I just think Kieran needs some recognition because he won’t take anything for it, he doesn’t even like praise. He says he’s no different to other people but he is.”
“He’s given me the most valuable gift I’ve got, my life. I feel I need to give something back.”
Kelly says she recently took a major step forward by sharing her personal story for the first time at one of Bridging The Gap’s online sessions.
She has also started getting into shape by going for a walk, encouraged by Kieran’s own health regime which he is doing to become more active.
Kieran said he simply gives people like Kelly who go to Bridging The Gap the mental equipment they need to build their own recovery.
He also spoke of setting up Bridging The Gap to work alongside the NHS and also works with the Wigan and Leigh Mental Health Forum which is intended to provide feedback to professionals from service users on what currently works and what does not.
Kieran said: “The service users do all the hard work, I just give them the tools.
“Kelly has come a very long way. She’s done the graft, there’s no two ways about it.
“She does listen to the advice given and it’s good to work with people who engage like that.
“It’s all about peer support. I used bridging to recover myself when I was in a dark place. I love that Bridging The Gap is doing well because I know it can help people.
“It’s about being a real person, not an authority figure or someone who’s textbook-trained. It’s about building a relationships, though it is also a two-way street.
“People like Kelly who are using it are the ones doing the work, I can’t take any credit for that.”
For more information about Bridging The Gap, visit www.facebook.com/bridginggapmentalhealth/
The Samaritans are also available for anyone who needs support at any time, day or night, on 116 123.
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