Juliet's Story

Growing up in Nigeria, I had an awful experience of how people treat mental health. There was a lady down the road from me; she was suffering with her mental health but they thought it was witchcraft. 

They stoned her to death.  

It gave me the passion to want to change people’s lives. I had two dreams and one was to become a nurse. I achieved it and chose to work in mental health. I wanted to show people that you can live a fulfilled life even with a mental health challenge.

The second dream I had was to become a hairdresser. I loved plaiting hair as a child. I trained at one of the best hairdressing salons and opened a beautiful salon.  

I joined Hestia in 2006 as a support worker at one of their mental health supported accommodations. I’now the Team Manager, and every day is different. 

The skills I learnt as a nurse and as a hairdresser were transferable and I’ve used them a lot during my time at Hestia. As a nurse, it’s about sitting down with someone, talking to them and asking them how they are. When people trust you, they will open up. 

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At Hestia there’s an open-door policy for residents and staff to come in and chat. I promote resilience and challenge them to develop their skills.

Staff and the people we support have similar journeys they work to recognise their strengths and tackle their weaknesses. 

Some residents are able to be a little more independent, and may one day be able to live in less supported accommodation where they can do things for themselves. For others in our care, the chances of living independently are minimal, but we still give them the best quality of life possible.  

When I started at the supported accommodation, I introduced pampering sessions every Saturday. Residents get a foot spa and have their hair cut. It makes them feel good and is a routine one I’m very passionate about. 

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Sadly, the stigma around mental health still exists. One lady, who had been living in supported accommodation for more than 20 years, was barely able to go into the community, but I convinced her to attend an appointment with me. When we went out, she was so happy, although nervous. Unfortunately, when we got in a taxishe panicked and touched the driver’s hand. He kicked us out and shouted that people with mental health conditions shouldn’t be out on the streets. 

I think if more people understood our work and how we are supporting people, that stigma would stop. 

Nobody is exempt from having a mental health condition. Most of our clients were doing things for themselves before – I worked with one lady who was a university lecturer. Any little trigger can cause a mental health challenge. 

It feels good to know that I’m changing people’s lives. I’m working with one resident, Saffron, as she wants to become a nurse. I’ve used my experience to guide her and seeing her progress makes everything worth it.

I know it’s my job, but it’s more than that: it’s about the happiness you bring to someone. 

One day I’d like to go back to Nigeria and change the way people view mental health thereI’d like to share the skills I’ve got and make sure people know that mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Which book has impacted me the most? 

The Rich Also Cry by Amaechi Nzekwe. It’s a poetry book I read when I was studying in Nigeria. People believe that when you have wealth, you have everything and when you don’t have it, you’re suffering. But no matter who you are or what you have, you can be affected by mental health. I come from a very poor background and I used to wish I had the wealth of others but in hindsight, those people had problems too. Things don’t always go smoothly for them. The rich also cry. 

Which film impacted me the most? 

My favourite film is Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts. She’s from a poor background, and she didn’t want to be a sex worker, but she needed the money. Fortunes turn around and she meets Richard and he changes her life. It links to my childhood, and having hope of a better tomorrow. 

Which song impacted me the most? 

The Coat of Many Colours by Dolly Parton. It’s a song about coming from a poor background and somebody giving them rags of many colours, which the mum then stiches together with love to make a coat. The daughter loves the coat even though children at school laugh at her. My mum has always been there for me and I vividly remember her plaiting my hair. We didn’t have a lot, but we were raised with love.

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