Celebrating Five years of ‘Raise’
These days something which is very much in the spotlight is mental health within the workplace. For many people who have been out of work due to emotional health related conditions, getting back to work can seem like something they will never achieve. Raise mental health would like to share their story to show that it is possible to overcome barriers to get back into mainstream employment and how it can aide recovery, and keep you well.
Service users to business people
Five years ago a County Council approached a group of Service Users, who were spending their days at a local day centre. They knew that the day centre was due to close, and asked the group whether they would be interested in receiving free training to become qualified Mental Health Trainers, mainly focusing upon what it was like to live with mental illness, but also to promote positive mental health. What started as a small venture escalated into a new training and consultancy business called Raise and would involve Service users running a company on a day-to-day basis – from cleaning and desk jobs to managers and directors.
Challenges and triumphs
It was a massive initiative, and lots of people felt out of their comfort zone, after the relative safety and familiarity of the day centre. Tracey the managing director, remembers the first time she opened the office for business “For a decade, I had been treated as a patient; no self-esteem, confidence or belief in my ability to take on such a challenge! Yet, there was something very empowering and motivational that allowed a group of fantastic individuals through a shared commonality, to use what had always been perceived as a negative (and at times) shameful illness and turn it into a positive. Ultimately, we have a staff team, who through raise, has not only helped themselves but contribute every day to creating a meaningful life for others. It has certainly kick started my own personal journey of recovery, and I am in no doubt, for many others.”
Five years on
This year Raise celebrated their 5th Anniversary. A professional company, working to the social enterprise ethos, Delivering services nationwide and run by a team of service users who have learnt to embrace their past, and use it to shape their future.
Rebecca, a trainer for Raise says “I remember a time when my life consisted of appointments with psychiatrists, nurses and GPs’ and not much else. It seemed I bounced from one service to the next with no direction in my life. Having suffered from Depression for 10 years, I had lost all my confidence, and thought that I would be sat at home for the rest of my life. My CPN recommended that I go to a company called Raise for a Capacity Building Course which helps with assertiveness skills, confidence building and reducing anxiety. Everyone at Raise has had experience of Mental Illness – either currently, in the past or cared for someone with some kind of emotional difficulty. They know what it feels like to go into a room full of strangers, or how hard it is to do the simple things in life like catch a bus or walk through a busy town centre. They even know how it’s sometimes difficult to get up in the morning! That was five years ago now. Raise made me realise that I had a voice worth listening to and that I can help others by sharing my experiences. Today I work for Raise as a mental health trainer; I give presentations to professionals, carers, and everyone in between. I work 4 days a week, and have a lot more direction and purpose in my life – and I am helping erase stigma and misconceptions about mental health”.
Mike Duff, Raise’s operations director “Since joining Raise, many aspects of my life have been transformed for the better. Raise has provided the bedrock for these changes. After 21 years of living with Bipolar Disorder, I finally feel I am in a sustainable position work wise. However the change Raise has enabled is deeper than that. I am in an environment that is accepting of mental illness and this has allowed me to accept myself more. I feel Raise is possibly the ultimate example of mental health service users being truly empowered.”
A little more about Raise
Raise currently has 16 full time equivalent members of staff; some paid and some volunteers. Through hard work and word of mouth Raise has helped many people get back into a routine and a place of work – where everyone understands that the good and bad times can be extremely difficult.
There are government initiatives to help get people back into work, but a greater understanding is needed to encourage both employers and service users themselves to offer a flexible environment that will not judge them, but understand their needs and requirements. This just shows how people with mental illness can not only work but run a successful business. Last year, Raise were a finalist in the Inspire 10 business awards for Hampshire for employer of the year which all the staff were immensely proud of and proved just how far everyone had come.
Raise is a social enterprise and a Service User run company. Service User means someone who is currently “Using the (mental health) Services”. Raise offers training to individuals, companies and organisations on a whole variety of subjects revolving around Mental Health, not just mental illness.
From the importance of diet and stress relief, through to diagnosis specific topics such as depression or personality disorders. What makes Raise training so special and memorable is that they use a blend of theory and personal experience. You can’t find Lived Experience in any textbook. Reading about the why’s and wherefores’ for having an eating disorder is one thing – but to hear about a person living and breathing an eating disorder 24/7 is often a powerful emotive learning tool. Raise aspires to breakdown the myths and misconceptions surrounding mental illness by educating as wide an audience as possible.
To find out more about Raise please visit www.raise.org.uk