Stand & Deliver: Modern Highway Robbery! Your Money or No Home!

Stand & Deliver: Modern Highway Robbery! Your Money or No Home!

Last week, I looked at a ‘Beautifully presented, newly refurbished, modernised home’. It lived up to the blurb in a way not many things ever do. It was indeed beautiful. It was well presented, and newly refurbished. Its brand new kitchen and bathroom, oak laminate, and white-painted smooth unmarked walls set pictures of Home Beautiful and Good Housekeeping magazine floating peacefully through my head, as cellos played and gauzy white nets fluttered in a gentle breeze. I could see modern sleek furniture in the ‘spacious’ living room. The front room, with its closed off fireplace, was already my new study. In my private little dream, I saw the beds placed just so, in each of the three double (mould-free) bedrooms. It was, in short, a dream home. And the rent, at £875 a month, was average and just within budget.

The agency fees, however, were not. As anyone in the private rental sector knows, as a tenant, you are expected to hand over a deposit (normally one month’s rent, plus another hundred. In this case, the deposit would be £975). You are also expected to pay a month’s rent in advance, which is all fine and dandy. All letting agents have ‘admin fees’. Normally, these will range between £125 – £175 per tenant. So, for myself and my husband, this would generally work out around £300, and include an inventory, tenancy agreement, and a handover of keys.

I used to work in a letting agency. The tenancy agreement is a word.doc; a bog standard bit of wording with a ‘fill in the blanks’ for address and names. Takes 5 minutes. I could run one up on this computer, right now, and it would be as legally binding as any given to me by an agent, so long as it was signed. But, of course, the agents need their income, so they charge. Kudos to them, but it’s extortion, right?

However, the agent I met with last week, to view the whitewashed paradise of this terraced house? They wanted a little bit more than the costs stated above. Take a deep breath, and hug your wallets close. Ready?

  • Rent                    £875.00
  • Security               £975.00
  • T/agreement       £300.00
  • References         £225.00
  • Admin                 £150.00
  • Check-in             £120.00
  • Guarantor chk    £100.00
  • Pet Clause         £75.00

A grand total of £2,820.00, to save you adding it up. £970.00 in fees alone. But it gets better. They required a ‘Good Faith’ payment of £500.00 to hold the property while they did credit checks. Checks I informed them I would not pass. My credit is shot to all buggery, and I have more chance of accidentally discovering a way to teleport humanity through black holes, defeat the Borg, and live without religion, than I have of passing anything like a credit check. This is why I have a guarantor.

The £500.00 is non-refundable, if the credit check is failed. So they get five-hundred quid, and I get to still be imminently homeless. That’s nice, isn’t it? (They said, when I kicked up a bit of a stink over this, that they would of course refund me, because I had been so open and honest with them. I asked for that in writing…the fact I do not have that house to move into gives you their answer.)

Now, you would at this point be forgiven for thinking this was one of those backstreet agents, like the abortionists and money-lenders of old. You know they’re there, but good people don’t have no truck with them. But it wasn’t. It’s a massive High Street chain, with offices all over the South of England. The smaller backstreet guys are generally more honest, in the case of lettings. They have more to lose, if people complain. Their reputation is all they really have, so they make themselves good enough that people want to do business with them.

Shelter, the homeless charity, have also noted the unfairness of these fees. They have a petition to sign, if you want to click this link and head on over to their page.

Disheartened, unable to pay nearly £1000.00 in agents fees, I walked out of the beautiful house that may have been a home, and went back to pounding the streets. My home is out there, I have no doubt, but I can’t justify paying all the money I have in the world, donated by people who are kind enough to help me, to a Highwayman of the Modern Era. The difference between these agents and Dick Turpin is, simply, they are breaking no law. Everything else, though? There’s not much between them. You have to ‘Stand and Deliver’, or you will be on the streets. There is no choice, but to pay, if you want a roof over your head and a life worth living.

So, it’s back to scouring the web, the papers, and the streets for me, and I’ll continue to believe there is something better around the corner.


Kathleen Kerridge is a Fantasy Fiction Writer. Her books can be found on Amazon here. Or here, if you are not in the UK.

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There is now a Go Fund Me page, a friend set up, to help me cover the cost of moving. I am, as always, overwhelmed by the generosity of people.

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Cosmic Pigeons, Metaphorical Poop, & the 80s!

Cosmic Pigeons, Metaphorical Poop, & the 80s!

I have got to know my city.

This is one of the positives to have come my way since my eviction notice fell through my door last Thursday morning. I have walked the length, and I have walked the breadth. I walked diagonal, in circles, up and down…I could have started a one woman tourist agency. No, really, I could have. Portsmouth is a beautiful city, when you look at it with fresh eyes and an optimist’s filter. I’m a human Instagram, when it comes to making things look better than they are. Rats? Great wildlife locally! Overgrown bushes? I do love a good Nature Reserve! Crushed and discarded beer cans strewn haphazardly across the grassy patch on the corner of a road? Modern Art, dude! You get the idea.

So, in a week that has had me walk more than 60 miles, look at 5 houses, apply to view another 70 (yes, really), and speak to the Council (I saw the really cool guy who was on ‘How To Get A Council House. He’s lovely in real life), I thought I would kick back and look at those positives. Remind myself who I am, remember what I have been through, and understand that, as with all things, “This Too Shall Pass.”.

  1. I can have a massive clear out.   I am naturally a bit of a hoarder. I like *things*, and I tend to pick them up from everywhere I go. Even if it’s only to the local Tesco, I end up with some small bit of crap that caught my eye. I have enough books to fill a study, maybe enough to fill a small library. I have clothes (too small, too big, kids outgrew them…) enough to start a charity shop. Maybe a rag shop, actually, because they’re not really that great and some are from the 90s. I wish that on no-one. I found my recycling mojo kicked in when I looked in, and around, my family’s wardrobes. DVDs, CDs, and, believe it if you will, cassette tapes. I have accumulated so much tat and crap over the years, the BBC could do a one hour special on ‘Things We Should Throw In The Bin’. It’s worthless, old, and mostly junk. Positive #1 of being made homeless? I can justifiably throw away the remnants of a life long lost.
  2. I will be forced to save every penny, and replace my mould-infested furniture.  This sounds harsh, but new furniture has never really happened in my life. Not much as a child, and definitely not as an adult. I had friends with old sofas, and beds no longer used. They had tables and TV units. They had an old wardrobe, which was going to the tip. They had coffee tables and freezers. You get the idea. It’s a constant source of amazement to me, how generous my friends and family are (and in one case, how much of a shopaholic pack-rat one friend is: a lot of the ‘second hand’ things she offered to me at huge discounts were a month or two old, and she’d simply gone off them). It has meant, of course, that I have not had to buy new pieces, or spend extreme amounts of money. It has also meant I have never chosen what will go in a room, what we will sleep on, or how our dining table would look. We always ‘made do’ as many others always do. Now, thanks to all my possessions being ruined, I need replacements. I have decided I will save, constantly, when we have a secure roof over our heads, and I will buy cheap, cheerful items, chosen by me. They might well come from thrift and charity shops, indeed, they likely will, as I love the 60s & 70s home decor look (don’t judge me!), but I would have chosen them.  Positive #2 of being made homeless? I can start afresh and get things I like. Also, the kids love camping – they get to have sleeping bags and roll mats, until their beds can be replaced. Yay!
  3. I get to document everything, as it happens.  The people I meet, the resources available, the robbing rental agencies! There is so much involved, when one is becoming homeless, it seems scary, daunting, and at times insurmountable. Hoops are put up to jump through, then moved, just after you have launched yourself up into the air. The rules of the game change, but that’s not so bad, because it turns out I was playing Cluedo, and everyone else was playing Chess. Typical.  I’m hoping to gather enough information to be of some good to someone, somewhere. I’m not the only one out there, in this situation. I won’t be the last. So I will collate and make note of anything useful. Positive #3 of being made homeless? I can make it into a small adventure and hopefully help people as I go along my way.
  4. I survived the Eighties. So this, in comparison, should be a piece of cake. I was brought up on a Council Estate, by a single mum, in the bloody Eighties. I had day-glo socks and a big perm. I wore white stilletto shoes and ra-ra skirts, with shoulder-pads to rival Joan Collins. I had Converse and Hi-Tec trainers. I am battle hardened to austerity, I have lived through boom times and fallen through the recessional floor. I can do this. I must do this. I will do this. Positive #4 of being made homeless? I have realised how strong I am, and that I can get through it.  Because…
  5. I have the best friends, anywhere, everywhere, in the world.  Truly, you are all amazing. Thanks to your support and messages, I have not crumbled on the worst days, and I have laughed on the not-so-bad days. I’m exhausted, worn out, and disheartened. I will not patronise myself, or anyone else in the same predicament, by pretending otherwise. But thanks to all of you, I know I am not alone. Just knowing I have support, good wishes, love, and people who care? It sort of balances the cosmic pigeon enjoying itself by shitting on my head from a great height. I might be getting shat on, but you all hand me the baby wipes to clean myself up and carry on. Thanks go to all of you, but a special mention will be made here to a lovely woman, Zoe Gray. She heard what had happened and set to making a difference. There is now a Go Fund Me page, if you would like to help financially. Many of you have asked, and now, thanks to Zoe, there’s one set up.

So, it’s hard, being made homeless. Bloody hard. But there are positives, if you know where to look. I’m off now, to drink some coffee and tend to the immense and epic blisters I have. Then I’ll throw clothes away and old ornaments, and maybe even that old shirt I have had since I was 11. I’ll sing along to Material Girl, and throw out mouldy linens. And I’ll hope for some kind of cosmic Pest Control guy to come and kill the cosmic pigeon. I’ll remember this is but another phase, and I will be moving on. I’ll remember I have friends and people who want to help me — and in turn, I’ll remember to accept that help.


Kathleen Kerridge is a Fantasy Fiction Writer. Her books can be found on Amazon here. Or here, if you are not in the UK.

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Lightning Strikes Twice

Lightning Strikes Twice

Benefits, Private Renting, and The Ever Feared Possession Order.

Can a rented property ever become a home? It’s an important question but one we rarely think about when we look at renting. Buying a house will likely always remain an impossible dream for me; bad credit and worse health mean that the ideal of home ownership will not be mine to know. That’s okay, I made my peace with that a long time ago. It’s not an issue…or at least, it had never been one before.
I first wondered about it when my last landlord went down with the recession and plummeted as fast as my husband and I did. We were reminded, in the harshest possible way, that we were not in control of what happened to us. He needed to sell the house. Fast. So, one morning, out of the blue, he called me to tell me I had six weeks to find a new place to live.
I remember the horror, the panic, and the consuming terror. In one sentence: “I need to sell the house.”, he had made me homeless. We entered a nightmare of uncertainty and sleepless nights. My health worsened, my mental state hit the darkest place it had been in a long time. We couldn’t be housed with all four of our children: properties with 4 bedrooms were rarer than goldfish riding bicycles. My eldest daughter, then 16, moved in with my mother and, as a shrunken family of 5, rather than 6, we found a 3 bedroom house in the private sector, with the help of our local council. We were told it would be affordable, long term, as secure as it could be, and better managed than the home we had lived in for 8 long years.
We were lied to on all counts.
Our new house is, as you will know from previous posts, riddled with black mould and damp. The walls run with water. The windows don’t shut and open fully. The back doors do not lock. The roof needs flashing, there are rats in the rafters, the bath leaks into the living room…and at £800 a month, it was too expensive for us on our new, much diminished, wages and tax credits.
And today, I received the second eviction notice in 4 years. Ironic, I know, considering the year I have had so far, helping other homeless people and pointing families to the right places to go, so they may also find help. Now, it’s happened to me. Again.
This time, I looked at the paper deciding my fate, and I realised I felt nothing. Only worry about where we would go. I looked around at the walls that keep us locked away (to an extent) from the outside world, and realised it was not my home. Just a shell. It was never, had never, would never be, my home.
My biggest concern is financial. I can afford rent, but a deposit and between £300 – £400 administration fees on top of an £800 rent are well beyond my means. It may as well be a mortgage application. How can fees of £200 per person be justified? How am I meant to find that money?
The simple answer is, sadly, that I can’t find that money. We’re on a breadline. That doesn’t miraculously change because we’re facing, yet again, homelessness. Despite receiving assistance with our rent, that assistance can’t be used for a deposit, or to pay for advance rent. It can’t cover the administration fees. It can’t find moving costs. I need everything from a washing machine to beds for my daughters, as this house was part-furnished. I have to start over from scratch. It’s a scary prospect, when I thought I was in a stable situation.
I am one of thousands facing this dilemma. There’s not really any options, or places to turn to. I have an appointment with Housing Options, at my local council, but I know I only have a slim chance of a future with anything approaching security. There may be help to allow me to pay a deposit over time, but I know what I’m facing and I know how much I need to be able to pay out of my own pocket. When you are living on a breadline, it’s hard to keep a chin up, and a lip stiff. But I shall, as always, endeavour. I plan to document this journey and keep you all informed, right to the end. Whatever the outcome, wherever my family end up, I’ll be chatting to you as we go. From £1 a day living (to try and save every penny possible), to selling off anything I have left to sell (not much, my wedding ring and other jewellery are long gone), I will let you all know.

I have until November 24th to relocate, settle, and maybe find a home. It can’t all be bad. I’m not a naturally pessimistic person. If there’s a bright side, I’ll find it! I’m hoping for laughter, as well as tears. I’m hoping for a life my children will be happy to live. I’m hoping for a small space, somewhere, where I can plug myself into the mains, and write my books. I’m hoping. Hope, right now, is one thing I have in abundance.
So watch this space. We’re going on an adventure, and you’re invited to tag along.

Kathleen x

Kathleen Kerridge is an Amazon Best Selling author of LGBT+ fantasy fiction. Her books are available here (UK) and here (rest of world). She can be found on Facebook, and Twitter, so come and say Hi!

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What Do You Need To Do To Be Housed?

What Do You Need To Do To Be Housed?

What Does It Take To Become A Housing Priority In Britain Today?


I ask this is the nicest possible way.  I have been trying to navigate the ‘system’ for several weeks, now.  As readers of this blog know, I took in a homeless friend at the end of January.  I said he could stay on my sofa, as he would have been on the streets and was suicidal.  I can’t think of a single person I know in my (rather large) circle of friends and acquaintances who would have let this vulnerable man end up on the streets.  I offered my sofa and I put the wheels in motion to get him a support worker.  I found the agencies he needed to contact to be housed.  I even sat at his side in the doctor’s surgery.

Fast forward two months, and nothing has changed except for my own mental health, which is now seriously in decline.  I am trying to cope, and I think I am failing.  You see, my friend, alone, broke, suicidal, homeless, is not a priority to be housed.  My future, right now, is a terrifying (to me) picture of never having my house my own again.

The Council see their duty of care as being discharged, because the man is on my sofa and is therefore ‘not homeless’.  They have said to try and get a bond for a deposit for a private landlord.  That’s wonderful, but when someone is on ESA, which he is, how is he meant to scrape together the ridiculously expensive Admin Fees for a letting agent?  He doesn’t have £20 spare, let alone £150.  I am feeding him from my own family budget and have been for the eight weeks his Benefit Claim has taken to be assessed.  Yet the council think he can pay admin costs for a landlord who will ask for £400 a month for a bedsit.

Go Figure.

The doctor has referred him to a mental health support group.  He is helping him with his depression.  He cannot, however, get this man housed by an indifferent council.  He is not coming out of jail, nor is he coming out of the ‘Care System’ so is not a priority.

He’s simply homeless and flat broke after falling through the cracks of care for twenty-five years.


I need to make it clear: I have no issue with him being housed in the private sector. I simply fail to understand how he is meant to get the cost of the fees together to pay for the privilege of being housed. As it stands, he will need about £800 before I get my house back.


My work is suffering. My mind feels as though it is fracturing. The ever helpful council have said they will ‘see what they can do’. What they can do, thank you, is house him. Naive, maybe, but I thought he would be helped and housed by now. I have known people housed within a couple of weeks and I really want to know how they managed it. Likely by spells and magic, chanting something while standing on one leg in the light of a full moon, while the stars are in Taurus and a nightingale sings. I don’t know any more.

All I know is I cannot carry on like this and nor can my friend. It is as though we are trapped in Limbo, unable to move on or to work toward a future. If you have the answers I am searching for, please tell me. If you know any landlords willing to take Housing Benefit without extortionate admin charges through a letting agency, then please tell me.



Kathleen Kerridge is an author of fantasy fiction.  Her books are available on Amazon HERE.

Homeless Doesn’t Mean Cardboard Boxes.

Homeless Doesn’t Mean Cardboard Boxes.

I don’t have a lot of material goods.  I don’t own my home.  I’m not rich by even the wildest stretch of the imagination.  Yet I do have something in my life, which right now, is a lifeline to a friend of mine.  I have a two-seater, second hand, 15 year old sofa.  It’s the only seating in my house, except for wooden kitchen chairs.  We used to have a leather three piece suite…clawed and scratched up by a previous tenant’s cats, but serviceable.  It belonged to our old landlord, though.  When he sold the house from under us and evicted us with only four weeks notice, he refused to let us take the suite.  He wanted £200 for it.  It had cost £30 second hand.  So, we had only the kitsch old sofa I’d bought years ago.  It’s small, beaten, weathered and ugly as sin, according to my husband.  I bought it (and a three-seater which unfortunately died) as more of a joke than anything else.  It was in a charity shop window and it was so hideous I felt sorry for it.

Now, that old battered and beaten sofa is my friend’s new home.  I wrote before, about a friend made homeless due to bereavement.  That same friend has once again found himself with nowhere to turn.  Much as poverty is hidden, so is much of this country’s homeless.  My friend, who shall remain nameless, has numerous personal issues.  One of which is another ‘hidden’ and ‘shameful’ blight — depression.  He needs help, which is proving difficult to get.  Suicidal Ideation is present and, when he told his doctor he wanted to die, he was told he had to want to help himself before he could expect help to be given and to go back in two weeks.  Isn’t that lovely?  A homeless man, out of work, no close family, nowhere to turn, suicidal…told to go away and come back in two weeks.

My sofa isn’t the comfiest thing in the world.  It sags and can cripple anyone with a back injury.  But it is under a roof that can keep off the rain and it comes with love and an ear attached to it.  It also comes with a meal a day.  I will need to juggle and get creative, but that one extra mouth needs feeding, so fed it shall be.  Until we can jump through all the hoops of ESA/JSA, and get him some kind of benefits.  Until we can get council help in finding him a place where he shall not need to be able to produce a deposit, as well as one month’s rent and £150 in agency fees.  To be able to be housed, this man — homeless, without money, without savings and without, right now, hope — will need to find about £700.  To some, that sum will seem insignificant.  To those in his situation, it may as well be a million.

His is a world where, when benefits come to him, he shall be living on a pittance.  One so small, that when he gets a bedsit, charged at an extortionate rent, after he has paid utilities and bills, he shall be left with pennies to survive on.  They are pennies he is grateful for.  A small amount, but one he appreciates.  His health and mental state make work an impossibility.  This is his life and will likely stay his life.  It’s not one he would choose, but it is his and it is worth keeping.  Worth fighting for.

This is where friends rally around.  Where we will sit with him as he wades through the minefield of legal gumpf and fills out enough forms to fill a wheelie-bin.  We will be at his side to help him find a small, cramped, cheap bedsit.  We will find him items to cook with, so he can eat.  Right now, he has a duvet and clothes from his life ‘before’ it was all lost.  We shall prop him up whilst he is too weak to stand, and we shall cheer when he takes those first steps into a new future.  We will be there for him for as long as we are needed.

So will my small, insignificant, beaten up, battered, hideous old sofa.  Because this is the world of the hidden homeless, and that sofa will mean he is not vulnerable.  On the street, left to the elements and discarded from society like a worthless old bit of junk no-one wants in their life.  That sofa, as ugly as it is and as uncomfortable as it might be, is his new home.  The sofa is more than an item of furniture.  It is a promise that it will be there, to hold him safe at night and keep him warm and dry.  It means there is a roof, not the sky, above his head.  It means he is not alone.

It means there is hope.


I am a Fantasy Fiction author (too much ‘real’ in my life as it is, thank you) and my books are available on Amazon.  I am Independently Published — my ‘team’ are my friends.  My début novel ” Into The Woods” can be found HERE (UK) and HERE (rest of world).  Links to my Author Page and other books can be found through these links.  The paperback for Book #1 of the Searching For Eden series can be found HERE.  Book #2 shall be available shortly.

“These people are not scroungers and they are not lazy” – an interview with Kathleen Kerridge

When blogger Kathleen Kerridge clicked “submit”, she had no idea what she had let herself in for.

“I had no idea of the storm that was about to be unleashed. Day two brought over a quarter-million people to my article and the responses were so heartfelt and honest that I was left reeling. Thousands upon thousands of people, in exactly the same predicament, began messaging me, emailing me and finding my Facebook page. Literally thousands. It was a constant stream of cries for help, offers of support, asking for advice, giving advice, telling me there was help, support networks being formed…”

Kerridge had written a post entitled “The Upsetting Reality of Modern Day Poverty” (read it here). In it she describes, in heart-breaking detail, the difficulty of feeding a household of five on a budget of just £45 per week. She decided to speak out after watching celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s show…

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Do You Care…Or Are You Aware? Campaigning For Change in Mental Health Care.

Do You Care…Or Are You Aware?  Campaigning For Change in Mental Health Care.


Guest Blogger, Sam Ward, Questions Awareness Campaigns, and Their Effectiveness…


 

In the interest of breaking the stigma, and taking the advice of Hemingway, I’m going to “write hard and clear about what hurts.” Mental illness hurts. It hurts those directly affected, it hurts their family, their friends, and it hurts us all as a society.

Lately we have seen the long overdue beginnings of recognition. National campaigns, such as Time to Change and The Guardian’s ‘Let’s talk mental health’, and more local campaigns, are starting to raise awareness and educate people of the severity and size of the situation.

Awareness is important. Without it, nothing can change. But like each viral craze on the internet, awareness can be everywhere one week and nowhere the next. How many of the people who poured a bucket of iced water on their head are still campaigning or raising money for Motor Neurone disease? How many of us are still talking about Ebola…much less helping?

Awareness is something easy to give. It takes little to no effort. Here lies the success and failure of awareness campaigns. They achieve great results because they ask so little of people but they will always fall short because they receive so little long term support. Awareness is passive participation.

Awareness alone doesn’t help the people who would do almost anything not to go home; those who curl up and lose their days to TV shows they don’t even like; the parents at their wit’s end because they don’t know know to help their mentally ill children; the parents that are at their wit’s end because they don’t know how to cope any longer, but hang on anyway like a suspension bridge losing one wire at a time; the people trapped between isolation and the immobilising terror of social anxiety; or those who live with a constant sorrow and vague dread.

Of course, in time, awareness becomes acceptance, and in time that leads to incremental change; but for anyone suffering now, that is too late. It’s not about stopping these campaigns, or criticising them, this is about making sure we kick off from the start they give us and really work to make change happen.

The best example I can give to support what I’m saying is to talk about loneliness. Loneliness is a consuming, bitter black treacle. It is also something familiar to many with  mental health issues. We all sort of know that we are becoming more lonely and isolated even as we plug ourselves into the internet ‘connection’. Social Media might allow us to talk, but it also lets social interaction and – for many – anxiety, invade our personal space. If I were to launch an awareness campaign about loneliness and millions of people started talking about it, would it eradicate loneliness?  I don’t think it would, because even though loneliness doesn’t need billions of pounds or huge changes to infrastructure to overcome, it still requires honest, long-term commitment from us all.

Talking about mental health, and loneliness, on social media or face to face does brilliantly to unite people, de-mystify it all, and present a truer picture of the state of things . We need to encourage it to become the norm. But we shouldn’t be forced to rely on each other for all of our support. If you have Cancer, talking to someone with Cancer can be comforting and the shared experience can give strength, but you wouldn’t be expected to administer each other’s chemotherapy or remove each other’s tumours.

I sought medical help for depression once. I wasn’t so much as offered an informal chat. I was given small prescriptions for anti-depressants and told to come back in regularly. The outcomes were always the same only the doctors had changed. Each time a new face to whom you had to explain (again) the intimate details of how you felt and how you lived. The drugs didn’t work. They didn’t work in the doses given so I took them in batches. I drank upwards of three litres a day of cheap cider or wine. I had no internet, no smart phone. I had a freezing bed-sit with no heating, a hair-dryer, and a few books. The drugs weren’t working. I went to tell this to a doctor, whichever it may be.

Once I had told this new doctor, a Hungarian man, about my worsening situation he started asking me some slightly probing but compassionate questions. I thought this was the beginning of something better, some actual treatment. I answered the questions as honestly as I dared and the doctor paused. He then went on to tell me the condensed tale of how his grandparents, along with his infant parents, had managed to escape from a concentration camp during the Holocaust. He told me of their resolve and their hope, but most of all he referred to their grit. Then he doubled my prescription strength, handed me the slip, and advised me that it was my choice whether or not to take the pills, but he advised not. It was the closest to a professional ‘man up’ you can get.

I walked past the pharmacy and I felt like shit. His family escaped the Nazis and there I was…and here I am ill. I never did put in that prescription. I changed alcohol for weed, which in the short term was better. I self-medicated and to this day have gone without the long term support I need.

What I want to say is, that whether you are taking part in the poorly named “It’s okay to not be okay” campaign at the University of Portsmouth, or posting on social media, or even just talking about mental health, don’t stop there. To quote mental health nurse turned novelist Nathan Filer, mental health care is “an utter, God-awful mess” in Britain. It is going to take more than awareness to fix it.

Written by Sam Ward


More of Sam’s writing can be found here!