Norwich evening on mental health recovery 

An evening focusing on the topic of mental health was held at Revelation last week, looking at what ‘recovery’ means and also at the context of faith.

By Helen Baldry

A group gathered at Revelation cafe at St Michael-at-Pleachurch in Norwich on February 23 to discuss mental health at an event entitled ‘Getting through’. The evening was led by suicide survivor Steve Foyster, who also manages the Revelation centre. Steve is a peer tutor for the recovery and mindfulness course at the recovery college at Hellesdon hospital.

The evening was informal and people were invited to contribute as they felt able. Steve spoke about his own suicide attempt in 1986 as a background to the discussion on how poor mental health can make you feel, what helps in recovery and strategies for coping. Other people shared their own experience of depression, anxiety and struggle as well as their thoughts on recuperation and how they made it through dark and difficult times.

When a person has a short term physical illness, people will ask ‘have you recovered?’

Steve asked, “With mental health or chronic illness, what does recovery really mean?”

He said, “We’re always on the road to recovery. I don’t think we’ll ever get there. It’s about realising your potential within your limitations.”
More people are talking about mental health nowadays – the former Norwich City footballer Cedric Anselin recently spoke about  mental health and suicide at Soul Church.  The importance of talking to somebody you trust is vital. This could be a friend or a professional. Steve found talking to a community psychiatric nurse who listened to him without judgement extremely beneficial.

Steve jumped from the top of a multi-storey car park at Castle Meadow after a year of pain, loss and depression. He said, “All my bearings had disappeared. I felt as though my heart had been ripped out and hung to dry.”

Steve suffered multiple injuries. His physical recovery has been remarkable – after he was told he may never walk again, may never be able to have children or work again. Thirty years on, he still recognises times when he needs to talk to a trusted friend. He said, ““I think that’s important. Often it’s been someone who’s been in a similar situation.”

Steve finds praying comforting. He said, “I believe Jesus went through everything we go through...despair, loss of friends, subjected to humiliation and rejection. The only reason I follow is because it’s a relationship with someone who is human and divine.”

Other people can be both a help and a hindrance to recovery. People try to keep you in a box and want you to be like you were before you were unwell.

We all experience events that can knock us sideways - bereavement, divorce, unemployment – and understanding and positive interraction with others helps us during these times. The evening demonstrated that recovery is an ongoing process and we need to be kind to ourselves and each other. Sometimes a miracle happens, sometimes it is about just ‘getting through’.

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