It may sound like an exaggeration, but from my own experience I can say that most ex-service users can have a very good quality of life. I have learnt from my many stays in St. Patrick’s, that there is life after hospitalisation, and that hope abounds for virtually every service user with a few genuine ‘tips’ on how to taxi down the runway of life and keep smiling. I have been a patient in St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services for protracted periods myself. The good news is that I have been out of hospital for 13 years, and have found happiness in the community, where I have a high standard of living.
I wanted to share with you some of the things I use to keep myself well and hope that they may be of some use or benefit if you are struggling with your mental health.

Self-affirmation.

Self-affirmation is key to sustained progress. At the end of each day, mentally look back over your day, and congratulate yourself. Every little/big thing you have achieved you tell yourself ‘well done!’ Very soon, your self-esteem will improve. So keep endorsing yourself in this way, and feel your confidence soar!

Apologise.

Most of us have hurt family or friends when we have been unwell. This damages relationships. It makes sense to mend broken relationships by admitting we were wrong. Start again with family and friends.

Build a social network.

This is absolutely essential. Being part of a social group encourages ex-patients (that is, service users) to abide by the social norms that society places on all adults. It teaches us important lessons about our role in the community: from paying our own way, to being on time, to keeping to your word. It also gives us vital opportunities to LISTEN to other people’s views, and, to some degree, their ‘problems’. Service users have learnt a lot and can help others immeasurably. This in turn further improves your self-esteem.

Find a Cultural Activity.

Google or enquire about FREE activities in your area. If you are fortunate enough to live in or close to Dublin, the possibilities are endless. Most people can find an educational or cultural activity to suit their pocket and time. The big ‘plus’ is that lots of other people are like you, and want to get involved with a group, to also meet other people and enjoy their free time.

Most of our art galleries, exhibitions, libraries, parks and sports are free to use, and offer a world of fascinating and relaxing events all year round. Apart from learning a great deal about our history and culture, they are very interesting and provide a connection between people who want to make friends. I have seen this happen again and again. One thing leads to another, and a walking group, for example, can end up becoming a ‘tourist’ group on a separate day during the week. If you are NOT working, it’s possible to have a very good social life, on very little money. A visit to the National Art Gallery, or the Hugh Lane Gallery, (both are free in), can be followed by a cup of coffee with the group. So these types of excursions give you ‘a lot of bang for your buck’. The friendships made along the way, make the initial effort worthwhile.

It’s worth a trip into the tourist office, or to the www.OPW.ie site, to avail of the wonderful attractions in our cities and towns. We went to free concerts, talks, city tours, poetry readings, lectures, historical buildings, castles and heritage centres. We loved it! We still have lots of other places to visit, and lots of conversations to have! – If you feel it is too much of an effort and that you don’t know anyone to socialise with, just go to one place, and start there. Ask existing friends to go to an event with you. Lots of other people are in the same position as yourself, so generally people at cultural events also hope to meet other friendly people. Another benefit from these activities is that you have definite places to go every week, and another reason, therefore, to get up reasonably early, as you have a commitment on time. Afterwards, you’ll be delighted that you made the effort, and will look forward to the next ‘cultural’ or ‘social’ event on your calendar. And of course, you can affirm yourself, at the end of the day: ‘Well done!’

And that’s the most important aspect of your life at present: ‘Well done!’, if you are out of hospital, for that is a very significant step in your life, and believe it, you CAN have a quality of life, no matter what age you are.

DO THE THINGS THAT HELP YOU STAY WELL!

And – yes – socialising is one of them! In your activities, you will meet some very interesting people, who are happy to meet you. Take the first step, for it gets easier after that.

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