When Mark’s dad became unwell, Mark quit his graduate engineering job in Glasgow and moved home to Gourock to help his mum care for him. For the next 10 years Mark was carer first for his dad, and then after he passed away, for his mum.

“All I knew was being a carer for my parents so I had nothing after that. After about a year of doing not much at all – I was hardly going outside or anything – I started to get strange mood swings. I would feel really focused, desperate to work, and suddenly it would just pass. I wasn’t sleeping well, and at times I was really, really down.

“After a year I thought, I’ve had enough of this, I’m going to do something about it. And I went to my doctor.”

Mark’s doctor put him in touch with a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN), who referred him for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and to SAMH.

“SAMH in particular has helped massively. I was very isolated I realise now. I was going outside maybe once a month. Now I go out all the time. I was anxious talking to people. Now, not a problem. I’m actually now much more my own person than I was even before. I’ve got an awful lot out of it.

“The aim from the beginning was to keep busy. When I was introduced to Netta at SAMH she said, ‘Right, you need structure.’ And I have that now.”

Mark did a 20 week course with SAMH’s ‘Gateways To’ programme, designed to help people establish positive links with their community.

SAMH arranged a full programme for work, both through their own projects and linking with others in the local area. Soon Mark was attending a walking group, Tools for Living workshops, The Conservation Project (TCV), and more.

“It’s got me doing things I wouldn’t have done before. Like literally going into a gym – I’ve never done that before. But there was a group of us, and once I was in there I realised everyone keeps themselves to themselves.

“Since I started doing stuff with SAMH my creativity has really come back too. I’ve been dabbling in electronics and things like that, that’s my big thing at the moment, fiddling about and making wee things. I attend a conservation group – cutting back trees, clearing paths, things like that – and I thought, what we need is a camera to see what goes on when we’re not here. So I went home and designed and built one, and now we can see the foxes and badgers.”

Mark has had a difficult time returning to employment. He felt pushed to start working again before he was ready, heavily pressured to take unsuitable jobs, and sent to interviews and assessments far from home. All with the threat of his benefits being sanctioned hanging over him.

Recently he’s started doing some freelance design work, and is using his skills and experience to work and volunteer for the groups which helped him, which has massively boosted his confidence.

“The feeling of someone actually thinking my work is worth something is a real boost – it’s really the first thing I can say I’ve truly earned in a long time!”

Mark’s made a lot of progress in a short period of time, and his advice to others would be to be honest with yourself and go to your doctor.

“I lived with this problem for a year. I was isolating myself and in total denial – I just thought, I’ll get by. When I opened up it was a relief. When I accepted it was a problem, I could say ok, problems can be fixed. I could have got an awful lot worse if I’d let it go on, I could have had major problems. Luckily I nipped it in the bud before it got too bad.

“I’m even better than I was before, so I’d say, don’t be afraid to try new things. I would never have thought about conservation work, but as soon as I started it I realised how much I missed being outside. At CBT I was learning about mindfulness, and bringing the two together was just great – being outside and appreciating the trees and nature.”

Referral process

Referral is via GP or care manager.

Service: Gateways To
Gateways To enables people in Inverclyde to establish positive links within their community to improve health and wellbeing, reduce isolation and promote recovery.