For those with mental health problems, tasks that are mundane for the rest of us – going to work, leaving the house – can be challenging or insurmountable.
Fife Employment Access Trust (FEAT) has been helping Fifers with mental health issue for more than 20 years.
It was set up in 1994 by a small band concerned that job opportunities for such people are few and far between.
Now the charity employs almost 20 and helps around 500 people a year in Fife get into employment.
Duncan Mitchel (44) is FEAT’s general manager. He said: “We help people with all sorts of mental health issues, from inpatients at psychiatric hospitals with very serious conditions to those with more minor issues who just need a bit of help and support.”
According to Duncan, many people with mental health troubles are more than capable of holding down a job. “We come up with a wellness at work plan for our clients that helps them manage their condition,” he explained. “Sometimes employers are given permission to call help or speak to the client if they seem withdrawn or depressed.
“Sometimes they need to have five or ten minutes break every hour to go outside and cool down or relax. It doesn’t need to be permanent – just a few weeks of breaks every hour can help them past a difficulty or stop them becoming argumentative.”
Duncan says employers are becoming more understanding about mental health. “A lot of it is just working with employers to come up with a plan for the client. We do a lot of site visits to get things set up well.”
If FEAT was to win The Courier minibus it would make a huge impact on the charity’s ability to help a vulnerable class of people. “One of the most common issues of mental ill health is an anxiety about public transport. We have some clients who have difficulty even leaving their house. After a lot of work by the NHS we recently had one woman who left her house for the first time in eight years. “That’s not uncommon behaviour for our clients.
“We can do a lot to help people like these but we can’t do everything on their doorstep. We need to get them to us. Sometimes we can use taxis but having a minibus would make a very big difference.”
FEAT also has an office at Silverburn Park between Leven and Largo. “There are a row of boarded up cottages there and we’ve managed to secure one which is manned by a single member of staff. Our aim is to get the others and establish a bigger base there.
“We’re doing a lot of woodland maintenance there and trying to restore the park to some of its former glory. People volunteer to come up and help out. A lot of our clients and some members of the public. The trouble is it’s not easy to get to by public transport.
“If we had a minibus we would be able to get people there much more easily and get more people helping out.
“So many studies have shown the benefits outside work and just being outdoors in general has on improving mental health.”