50 Years 50 Voices "I've got to meet people I never would have done otherwise" Manoj's Story Eight years ago, my mother passed away. I was in crisis; I wasn’t in a good way at all. I had been discharged from the community mental health service for a few years at that point, but after my mum died, I knew I needed to be re-referred. When I was re-referred, the team told me about a new service that was starting: Kingston’s Good Energy Club. I went along to the open day and signed up there and then. I have an anxiety disorder and was anxious about joining at first. You don’t know what to expect. I couldn’t shake the feeling of ‘what will people think of me?’. I tried to put it off and it took a bit of encouragement for me to go. Once I started though, it was the best decision I could have made. I’ve had the chance to try things I never would have done, from badminton to yoga and electronics. They asked me to be on the steering group when I started, to give input on the activities we were doing. Even now, we’re always asked what activities we like or what suggestions we have for the club. There are new activities starting all the time; we started film club and mindfulness session recently. It’s a full week of activities. I need that. The exercise helps with your mental health – it pumps iron, it stretches your muscles and it releases endorphins. And you get to do it with a lovely bunch of people, which is a bonus. Before the Good Energy Club, I was just floating through life. I had no structure to my days, my weeks, my life. I had no purpose. It’s benefited me on every level. I enjoy the physical activities like circuit training and tennis as they help my both my mental and physical health and they give you a sense of accomplishment. I’ve got to meet people I never would have done otherwise and form friendships with individuals who have had similar experiences to me. It’s a completely non-judgemental space. I see the difference the club makes to other people too. There was one lady who, when I first met her, was incredibly shy and reserved. She wouldn’t say a word. After a year, she was confident and chatty and has now even found her own job. Some people need that initial push to go, like I did. Phoebe, who oversees the Good Energy Club, is great at giving people that encouragement. But people do have their own choice. They have the freedom to decide when and how to take part. That’s important – if you force them, it will frighten them off and they won’t come back. The club does give you a sense of direction, but it can be more than that. It keeps a lot of people out of hospital and it can keep some people alive. I’m quite confident now that I’ve been going to the club since it started. If I see a new member who is withdrawn or stressed, I talk to them and put them at easy. We look out for each other. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before. I was too stuck in my own problems. Now, I see a difference in myself. Which book has impacted me the most? The book that has impacted me the most is called Elvis Presley: The Complete Illustrated Record, which documents the whole of Elvis Presley's life and career, including critique of every record and movie he made and with lots of photos. I have always been an Elvis fan, since I was seven-years-old, and I bought this book when I was 14. I find him very fascinating. Which film has impacted me the most? The film which has impacted me the most is probably The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with Clint Eastwood and it is also my favourite film. I like all the spaghetti westerns but particularly this one, which sees the three central characters face off at the climax. I particularly relate to Clint Eastwood's man with no name as an anti-hero. Which song has impacted me the most? The song is probably my favourite, which is Don't Be Cruel by Elvis, which I think is one of his best ever records from the rock and roll era. It has him in a salacious mood at the top of his game and I sang it on karaoke on my 30t birthday!