This year as part of MacIntyre’s focus on World Mental Health Day, My Way Transforming Care Facilitator Carly Morrissey shared how she supported a young man to transition into his first home.
Jack* is 23, he is funny and talented and a real joy to be around. I first met Jack in May. Coronavirus had delayed his move a few months and this was also negatively affecting his mental health, with episodes of self-harming increasing, so we decided to start his transition.
A new home had already been secured and we were able to use this as a base to begin some outreach sessions, to get to know Jack better. It was important that we did everything in a person-centred way and went at Jack's own pace. It was a huge step for Jack to move, as he has such a close relationship with his dad, who he was living with.
The first day we met was at the local office with his dad. He appeared shy and sat quietly in the corner, looking to his dad to answer questions for him. I explained that I was nervous to meet him for the first time and he laughed and said he was too. I asked about his likes and dislikes and he started to tell me about his love for all things theatre.
I immediately saw Jack light up. He told me about a show he was going to be performing in at a local theatre. He was beaming and so proud of this achievement and how hard he had been working to learn all his lines.
The following week I went to Jack's Dad's house to pick him up. He was waiting in the window for me and immediately came out. I explained I was wearing a mask to keep him safe and he said that it was fine and he didn’t mind wearing them either.
We headed to where his new home was, but my sat nav had other ideas and took us the wrong way. Jack was laughing at me not knowing the way, so I suggested maybe he could show me. Jack agreed and from that point on, Jack has become my personal navigation man.
We spent the afternoon driving around the local area, with Jack showing me all his favourite haunts; the rugby stadium where he has a season ticket, where he trained with his rugby club and the local theatre where he was going to be performing. We arranged to meet again the following week. This became our regular meeting time.
Each week that we met, Jack became more relaxed. We made picnics to eat in the garden of his new home, painted the walls of his living room and planned how he wanted his new home to look. Every decision that was made, Jack was part of. I wanted him to feel like this was somewhere that he wanted to live.
We laughed a lot, usually about my 'not so great' singing, or at my attempt do different accents. Jack showed me how amazingly talented he was by perfecting the accents every time. Jack also started to feel more comfortable about sharing his past with me.
Jack was only diagnosed with autism at the age of 19 and told me he felt like he had struggled his whole life to fit in. He told me he attended both mainstream and special education schools and was excluded or restrained at regular intervals and how he didn't get the support he needed.
He told me how he had become upset with previous care providers, as they arrived late a lot or didn't turn up at all and how this affected his trust. I reassured him that if we made plans, then we wouldn’t let him down.
He talked about when he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and how he couldn’t see his dad, how they restrained him when he became distressed and that he never wanted to go back to that.
I reassured him that we would always ensure his dad was part of his life. Even though he was moving into his own home, his dad would only be around the corner and he could see him whenever he wanted and that we would never restrain him, but instead use Positive Behaviour Support (PBS).
We worked through all of the MacIntyre person-centred documents together. At each step, I checked he was happy with what I had put and together we developed his support plan.
Jack wanted us to help keep him safe when he moved into his new home and asked us to lock things away, that when he wasn't feeling great, he may hurt himself with. Jack sat with Sarah from the PBS team to put together a list of items that needed to be locked away and together they worded an advance statement of his wishes.
Jack's new staff team all received bespoke PBS training, autism training and personality disorder training to help them understand how the different elements of his life affect him on a day to day basis.
We spent time ensuring Jack's staff team felt supported throughout and ensured all staff had lots of opportunities to talk, which will continue regularly, as we understand it may not always be easy for them too.
I also spent time getting to know Jack's Dad, ensuring he has someone to talk to if he has any concerns. We talk on the phone at least every week and he shares with me what he thinks is going well or not so well for Jack.
It was important to me that Jack's Dad knows that he can visit his son whenever he wants and that we will always listen to him.
As the weeks passed, Jack started to trust us more and wanted to spend more time at his new home. He then decided he wanted to try and sleep at his new home. We arranged for this to happen and when the day arrived, I picked Jack up and we went shopping for food and cooked dinner together.
Jack's Dad then came over for a couple of hours in the evening. Lots of reassurance was given to Jack that I would be there if he needed me through the night and we came up with a word he could use if he was starting to feel anxious or scared.
Jack slept all night and woke at 6.45am. He came out of his room beaming from ear to ear and told me how happy he felt that he had managed to stay all night. Gradually, we started to increase the number of times Jack slept at his new home; listening to what Jack wanted and supporting him how he wanted to be supported.
Jack hasn’t always found the transition easy. He says he finds it difficult that he can’t return to his theatre or rugby groups due to COVID-19, which has led to him self-harm. However, he trusts us enough to tell us what he has done and explain his feelings.
The staff team remain a consistent support network for Jack; planning days with him and filling them with lots of activities he likes.
In the next couple of weeks, Jack will move into his new home full time. This is a massive achievement for him and I feel honoured to have been part of this journey. Although my transition work is nearing completion, we will continue to support him in a way that makes sense to him.
*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.