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Caroline’s story: Long-term support to manage mental illness

Engaging in structured activities at Change Mental Health’s Employability Support Project in Dumfries has provided Caroline with purpose and stability.

Group work activity at Change Mental Health

All too often, people receive support for their mental health once they hit the crisis stage. So, how can we work to prevent people from reaching that stage? Especially for people experiencing long-term mental illness and isolation. For Caroline, the answer to that is consistent, community-based support.

By having a structured routine of support where people can develop their creativity and connection to others, it becomes easier to manage mental illness and prevent the symptoms from reaching crisis stage.

A few years ago, Caroline was told she would no longer be able to work due to her long-term mental illness. Suddenly, she was cut off from her key source of development and connection to her community. Finding this transition difficult, she turned to Change Mental Health’s Employability Support Project on Munches Street in Dumfries.

“I started coming to the Employability Service in early 2020. At the time, I was very much in my comfort zone and needed to meet new people. Although the pandemic impacted meeting people face-to-face, I was still able to develop and practice skills with their online support.

“I’d stopped working at this point and I needed a push. I didn’t want that to stop socialising with people just because I wasn’t working. I needed help with the transition. Someone to give me a different purpose and a new reason to get up in the morning.”

The Employability Support Project in Dumfries and Galloway provides opportunities for personal development and employability skills improvement, through a combination of group work and one-to-one support for adults who are affected by mental health issues.

Activities are aimed at improving or, in many cases, rediscovering skills that allow people to take part in leading a more active role in society. The group activities range from art, crafts, sewing, digital photography, and IT-based activities, to drama, creative writing, digital art, and literacy and numeracy. In all the activities, skills development opportunities are embedded.

“One of the main ways I have benefited since I joined is being able to build relationships with people that work and visit here. Because they know me, they see me when I’m well, and they can intervene when I’m not well. It means that I can nip my mental health in the bud and stop it going to crisis stage.

“There are a lot of people like me that need commitment, stability and structure. I start to lose the thread on my mental health if there is no structure.”

“One time, I was having a bad day and didn’t know if I was up to coming in, then I was advised to turn up anyway, even if I did nothing. ‘Come in and do nothing’, they said, and they were right. I need to know that I’ve committed to showing up somewhere to make sure I keep showing up for myself.”

Caroline takes part in different craft activities, writing groups, and volunteers at the Gift Shop on Munches Street. The gift shop sells art and craft items which people create in their groups to fundraise for the project. By having their items in the shop and selling them to their local community, people have a sense of achievement and giving back becomes a huge part of their personal development.

“The doctors told me I have a long-term mental illness, so it’s not going away. For me, it’s about managing my illness so I can keep living a happy and fulfilling life. Change Mental Health is a big part of that for me. It’s a way of managing my mental illness because I am still contributing to my community, I’m still socialising (in fact, more than I was before!), and I’ve got that commitment and discipline.

“The combination of all that is exactly what I need to manage my mental health.”


Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our own Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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