James Roper from Plymouth has a cause for celebration this World Mental Health Day, having gone from being detained under the Mental Health Act to being named “Pluss Achiever of the Year 2017” for his job success.
In 2009, James was diagnosed with severe mental health conditions including personality disorder, social anxiety and depression. Shortly after diagnosis, James was detained under the Mental Health Act and, being unable to work, became reliant on his wife. After an improvement following the birth of his son, James’ condition deteriorated. His relationship broke down and his wife left with their son. He was detained once again.
James then discovered Positive People, a programme funded by the National Lottery and European Social Fund to help vulnerable people rebuild their lives, run by Tomorrows People and Pluss. And at a recent uplifting and inspirational awards event hosted by Pluss and MP Johnny Mercer, James was named Pluss Achiever of the Year 2017, in recognition of his immense courage and determination to overcome his barriers.
James is telling his story for World Mental Health Day on Friday 10th October to raise awareness of the vital role work had to play in his recovery to mental wellbeing. One in four people in the UK every year will experience a mental health issue which includes conditions such as depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.
“I had been out of work since 2003 and it was terrible” says James, “I didn’t feel I was contributing to my life or future. I had no purpose and nothing to get up for. Some days I didn’t want to be here any more. My mental health held me back; I was quite slow and often couldn’t remember things. I didn’t know if an employer would accept me for who I was with my mental health and memory loss.
Talking about how Positive People has helped him, James says “I wasn’t convinced at first. I couldn’t do group situations because I had such fears due to being badly bullied by a group when I was younger. Positive People spent one to one time with me and as I got to know them, I realised I needed to help myself.
“I did courses and got help to prepare for interview. I realised that being with people wasn’t as bad as I thought and the wall I had built up started to slowly come down. They had so much belief in me and this boosted my confidence - just having someone there was 100% what I needed.
“Then Positive People arranged a meeting with Actavo at the dockyard. I really wasn’t sure that I could do it. But then I remembered what everyone had told me, ‘You can do more’. I went along and was offered the job straight away.
“It felt unbelievable. Suddenly I could see a future. Previously I didn’t have any money and I didn’t go out. I was stuck in between four walls. It broke all of that and suddenly I could provide for myself. Now I am earning my own money and get out and about. I have also started saving money for important things. I feel absolutely great. I want to be here and I want to live my life”.
James’ boss, Gary Tiffany, Cleaning Manager at Actavo is equally delighted with his new employee, “The most impressive thing about James is his attitude towards the job. You can tell he really enjoys his job as he is so happy at work. He is very reliable, always on time and here every day. Everybody likes him. Because of where he was previously in life, you can see he is grasping the opportunity he has been given with both hands. If I had another 20 James’ I would be very happy.”
James has now gained a number of accredited and functional skills. He also plays for the Plymouth Argyle team for people with disabilities.