Wilfred is re-reading Paradise Lost for the fourth time to occupy himself in lockdown. Getting through such a legendary tome just once would be an achievement for many of us but Wilfred loves reading. And he’s also used to not going out much.
When we first met Wilfred he was living in a hostel and being treated for depression. Before this, he had been overcome with grief following the death of his wife. With too many painful memories in the home, he wondered out onto the streets and stayed there for two years. Time had healed things a bit but he had no confidence and was stuck in a rut.
We encouraged him to come along for some of our group sessions where he could meet other people who’d been through similar things He needed a lot of coaxing as he experienced panic attacks when he left his hostel room and spent most of his time cooped up reading library books. The sessions were led by a man called Conrad who had also been on the streets. Conrad had trained with St Giles and works for us as a Peer Advisor helping others.
At St Giles, we believe people have the power to turn their life around – no matter what their situation. Many of us have been in similar situations and use our past experiences to inspire and support those living through it right now.
And after a few weeks, Wilfred started to come out of his shell. Conrad saw that Wilfred was a gentle soul and a good listener – people open up to him easily. He said to Wilfred that he would make a good Peer Advisor as the ability to listen and show empathy are very important things for them to have.
After lots of encouragement, Wilfred agreed to start Peer Advisor training in February. He was understandably nervous. He left school decades ago and this was the first time he’d done any form of training since. But despite this, his open mind and life experiences put him in good stead and within a few weeks he was relishing the opportunity.
But since the pandemic, Wilfred has been self-isolating in his hostel room. Conrad is phoning him every day to check his is coping OK and Wilfred is stoical at present – he’s been through worse.
But once his finishes Paradise Lost he will have run out of books and we are worried the boredom and isolation will bring on his depression and anxiety again. This might undo some of the determined work he has done to build up his resilience and confidence.
Libraries are closed and Wilfred has no spare cash or internet access to buy more books online. By donating just £10 you can help us buy Wilfred some books which we can get delivered to his hostel. He has a heart condition and needs to stay indoors until the rate of infection is very low. This could be some weeks – possibly months. So in the meantime, we want to keep his active mind occupied so, once he can safely venture out again, his mental state will not be too badly affected and he will have the confidence to resume his Peer Advisor training.