HHPA client Dave on how talking and peer advocacy transformed his life

HHPA client Dave on how talking and peer advocacy transformed his life
10/04/2019 Becky Evans

Dave doesn’t remember but in 2018 he spent two weeks at St Thomas’ Hospital following a suicide attempt. A year on the 56-year-old is living in a hostel and managing his own health with the support of Ala, one of Groundswell’s Case Worker’s.

“I am grateful for you guys helping me, cos otherwise I’d still be back where I was”

Dave’s had a difficult few decades, brutally losing his daughter to murder at 14 followed by the death of his Mother; “I’ve been through hell for years, beating myself up and feeling sorry for myself”. He was rough sleeping for a couple of years prior to his hospital admission;

“to be honest I thought I was better off on the street – there was no rules but now I’ve got to face that, no one likes rules, but they do it”.

After receiving hospital and psychiatric treatment Dave ended up in a hostel, it was then his keyworker referred him to Groundswell to help manage the high number of medical appointments he was missing. “I’ll be honest with you I was a nightmare; I didn’t go to any of my appointments.”

With a stent in his heart and as a sufferer of COPD, Dave is required to have regular appointments to monitor his health. But it’s not as simple as just going, “it’s scary” Dave explains, “I don’t mind admitting that. But since Ala has been coming with me things are getting easier”. Dave credits Ala for giving him “confidence” in attending his appointments; trusting that he “stays there right to the end” is an important part of their relationship. Dave is clear that “if he disappeared then I’d disappear” – Ala is crucial to ensuring Dave follows through with his health appointments and gets the treatment he needs.

Talking has been pivotal in Dave’s recovery over the past six months. When his hostel key-worker suggested he should work with Groundswell to help manage his appointments, Dave was reluctant; “I thought it would be one of them ‘talk talk talk’, nothing’s going to come out of it – but it has, I’ve made a good friend”. Dave’s reservations were clear to Ala when they first met:

“I mean that’s where I saw the change, in the way he was at first, he was in bits – he seemed all reserved and didn’t wanna talk about anything; but slowly he came to terms with it.”

There’s no question that Ala’s own experience of homelessness have been pivotal in building their relationship as Dave explains:

“he’s been there, and it does help you know. Most people read from a book and if you’ve actually done it [experienced homelessness] you know, it does help.”

Six months since Dave started to receive support from Ala he is proud that he now has the confidence to go to his appointments alone; “since Ala’s been there for me it’s made my life easier. Knowing someone’s there now means I’ve started to go to appointments on my own”. Ala agrees:

“that’s the change, before you never bothered about your appointments you didn’t use to engage with anyone. And now you seem to be telling me ‘Ala you don’t have to come I’ll make it on my own’.”

It’s clear the relationship Ala built up with Dave really has turned his life around. He may not need Ala every time he has an appointment anymore however Dave knows Ala is always around for a chat, a cup of tea and a walk around Iceland to check out the latest ready meal selection. Ala has reinforced the importance of self-care and well-being, transforming Dave’s motivation to put his health first which has had a huge impact on his overall well-being:

“Now I’ve got to concentrate on what I’ve gotta do, just think about me because before I didn’t even care about me.”

Dave (left) with Ala, one of Groundswell’s Case Worker’s who he now classes as a friend.