Terry, who is 65 and from Wavertree, heard about Imagine from a friend. They both have an interest in photography and started a course in the subject together through Imagine.
He said: “I was in a very low place before I found BUS. My wife died several years ago and life has been really difficult ever since.
“The photography course helped to lift my spirits, and they told me about BUS which meant I could do some other courses and meet other people in the same situation as me.
“I did the Phoenix Rising course, where we all talked about our lives and what we were struggling with. I was a bit scared about that but I wrote a poem and sent it to the group which made it easier.”
As part of the BUS service, people without modern phones or devices or the digital skills needed to experience the full benefits of them are provided with equipment and training. This allows people to stay in touch with family and friends more easily, as well as accessing support and other services to help improve their lives.
Terry continued: “I had an old phone which I couldn’t do much on, but through BUS I’ve now got a new phone which is great. I couldn’t use technology before, but they showed me how to use it and now I can make video calls, use WhatsApp and email so I feel less isolated and alone.
“All the people on the course are in a WhatsApp group and we’re planning to meet up in the summer once all the lockdown restrictions have been lifted.
“BUS has been great for me. Without the support I’ve had I don’t think I’d be here today. Whilst I still experience depression, life is a little bit brighter now.”
Vic Clarke is a BUS Project Facilitator at Imagine. She said: “Working with Terry to co-create a tailored BUS Action Plan was personally rewarding. Terry was so open about his personal obstacles and barriers that it made the process of discovering what might help him going forward so much easier.
“It was clear that Terry had lost confidence through his grief and had not felt able to see himself as a priority. He told me during our first conversation that he was just sitting “doing nothing in the dark”. He was physically and metaphorically in a dark place.
“We started talking about the Five Ways to Wellbeing and those ways became his roadmap to recovery. We worked together to increase his knowledge of cooking and healthy eating, I introduced Terry to courses happening at the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) and I regularly sent him recipes I thought he might enjoy.
“When he worried (due to Covid) about the process of going to a larger supermarket for fresh vegetables, rather than the sweet shop, we went through the steps needed together so that he felt prepared for all eventualities.
“Helping Terry to access Zoom and WhatsApp using his new phone was amazing. I still recall our first successful video call in which Terry’s first words were “It is so good to see a human face!”.
“Loneliness had been such a big part of Terry’s life in recent years that building up his social network was so important. I put Terry in touch with a range of services and information that would help him first work through his grief and then we set about obtaining Resilience training for him. He now knows he has the skills and ability to face difficult days as and when they arise.”
John, who is 62 and from Woolton, was referred through his psychologist. He’s been having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for a while to help him overcome some mental health challenges.
John said: “I thought it would be a different route to getting some support and learning new things. Tony from Imagine rang me and we had a chat so he could find out what I’m interested in.
“I did a computer course which taught me some new skills, like using Zoom. After that I wanted to do something with a bit more interaction and to meet people to talk to.”
John has a background as a landscape gardener and has done some voluntary gardening work too, so Tony thought he might be interested in doing a course in bee-keeping.
John said: “He phoned me and told me about his idea - I thought why not?
“I go to the class once a week and it’s been really interesting. We’ve been starting to build hives and learning about how to keep the bees healthy.
“I’ve met some new people who I get on with. I’m an inquisitive person and I love talking to people and finding out about them. I love football and cycling and there are a few people with similar interests. It’s a social thing to do and it’s helped my mental health.”
John has a weekly call with Tony for general support. He added: “It’s a friendly voice and he’s easy to talk to. We’ve been looking at other courses I might be able to start, like resilience.
“Imagine are very relaxed and easy going, and they’re there to help and support people. I’ve not worked for eight years but I feel I have a lot to offer and it’s my goal to become employed again. Imagine are helping me on my way with that.”
Tony Fiori, Imagine Project Facilitator, added: “I have been working with John on improving his digital skills and through our discussions, John told me that he has volunteered with a gardening group and is interested in outdoor activities.
“When I saw the opportunity arise for a bee-keeping course, I immediately thought of John. The course is hands-on and interactive, and for men aged 50+ with who have experienced recent mental health difficulties. John has told me that it is very enjoyable and he has learnt a lot on a subject he did not know he was interested in.
“Older men in particular can sometimes find it difficult to talk about mental health and courses like this one give men a chance to discuss their feelings and learn a new activity at the same time.”