My story, by BLF member Melissa

I have learned first-hand how important your mental well-being is, you take it for granted until you know how it feels to lose it. 

Last year I was like any other woman in my 30's - I had a place to live, a secure office job and a good family around me. Then gradually I started to struggle with my mental health. This was brought on by a number of factors such as stress, but it really took me by surprise when it really got to me. I ended up having to leave my job and the security of my flat. 

That’s when Hestia stepped in. They moved me into supported accommodation and provided me with advice and support. About 2 months later my support worker told me about the Better Lives Forum (BLF). It sounded like it could have benefits for me so I went along to a meeting to try it out.

7 months later and I’m happy to say I am a firm member of the BLF and haven’t looked back. I have got a lot out of knowing that my volunteering is helping the lives of other people, I also like to keep active and positive, and enjoy socialising with others which is a real benefit.

Through the BLF I have gained many new experiences, I have participated on 8 interview panels and 4 service inspections. Through this learned a lot about the range of support Hestia provides by visiting services, I have also picked up a lot of knowledge on how organisations operate on strategic levels, within the BLF project groups. 

A real achievement for me was when I recently gave a PowerPoint presentation to members of the Board and Trustees at Hestia’s Annual General Meeting, which was scary but also really empowering.

I have also co-delivered; I have completed learning and development such as interview panel training and co- delivered safeguarding training twice with Hestia Director Gayle.

Within this time I moved out of supported accommodation and gained my own flat. I can’t tell you how happy I was to have my own space, and the best moment for me was when I  bought my lovely comfy sofa – that was the missing piece of the jigsaw.

In the future I would like to gain part time employment, right now I volunteer in a charity shop, I want to work in retail because I enjoy it.

BLF member Melissa and Co-production Manager Sophie