Safe haven at Mind Aberystwyth

One of our service users Alice* blogs about her experience at Mind Aberystwyth

*not her real name

Since the age of 16, I have struggled with mental health issues which have had a huge impact on my life. I have met many people who suffer from a wide range of mental health conditions. They have different stories, experiences, backgrounds and lives. However, something which we often have in common is a fear of the stigma which surrounds mental health. Stigma breaks people down, isolates them from society and discourages them from speaking about their issues.

For years I longed for a place where I could go without fear of judgement; I just wanted to be able to be myself, even when things weren’t going well. I started to believe that no such place existed. I’m glad to tell you that I was proved wrong.

I first went to the drop-in at Mind Aberystwyth almost a year ago and as soon as I walked through the door, a few things caught my attention. Some people were sat in groups, chatting over coffee while others preferred to sit alone and enjoy their lunch or read a newspaper. I know this may sound like an insignificant observation, but it meant a lot to me.

I have bipolar disorder, which can really affect how much I want to socialise, depending on my mood. When I am in a balanced or high mood, I am chatty and confident. However, when I am in a low mood, I avoid going places where I might feel pressured into engaging in long conversations, but Mind Aberystwyth strikes the perfect balance because you can be as sociable as you want to be, safe in the knowledge that no one will judge you. It is one of the very few places where I feel comfortable going during depressive episodes. The staff and volunteers are incredibly understanding, caring and supportive, which seems to radiate throughout the building.

The food is so tasty and affordable…which leaves enough money in my purse to have a pudding as well! I was so pleased to see the range of herbal teas and decaf coffee there were on offer. As a lover of hot drinks who now has to limit their caffeine intake because of medication, this is very significant! I love that the low-pressure atmosphere even extends to eating lunch, because everyone orders food and drink whenever they want to. As a recovered anorexic, I really appreciate the way in which people aren’t put on the spot at all, as pressure to eat at certain times in public places used to have a negative effect on my ability to eat at all.

As you walk through the door to Mind Aberystwyth, you can feel the stigma which is concreted into today’s society disappear. The service they provide does not just stop at the drop-in either; they offer a great range of groups, activities and courses – there really is something for everyone! If the rest of the world adopted the same attitudes as the staff and volunteers at Mind, we would live in a much happier place. People would feel able to openly talk about mental health and access any help they need, their loved ones would be more comfortable talking about mental health. Mental health is far from being a new phenomenon and there should be no shame in caring for your own mental wellbeing. The ignorance and prejudice which engulf it definitely need to change!