We were thrilled to welcome Nicola Dalton as a key speaker at the NHS APA 2020 conference back in September. Nicola shared her experience of accessing addiction services which in turn led her to volunteer with Achieve, a Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Recovery Service, in Salford and Trafford. Now as a key member of the Psychosocial Intervention Team (PSI) Nicola also co-facilitates First Step, Relapse Prevention.
Nicola has fulfilled many roles for Greater Manchester Mental Health (GMMH) including peer mentoring, sitting on interview panels, being service user representative on the new Park House building project, sitting on Dragons’ Den awards panels and developing Trust leaflets. She is thrilled to be a female role model for other service users and hopes that her inspirational story of recovery will give hope to others starting out on their recovery journey.
‘‘Because I have lived experience of recovery, I am able to give people hope for a positive future.’’
After sixteen years trying to cope on her own while struggling with her mental health, Nicola’s alcohol use began to spiral out of control and her behaviour had become very chaotic and destructive, leading to the emergency services being involved on several occasions. It was at this point that her key worker suggested that she referred herself into Achieve although the idea wasn’t appealing to Nicola to begin with.
“At first I was reluctant to engage,” Nicola explains. “I’d had bad experiences with other services, but my recovery coordinator reassured me that I would have consistency with my care, and that it would all be tailored around my recovery goals.”
Despite her initial reservations, Nicola was really impressed with Achieve's inclusive approach, meaning that her experiences with the service were very positive from the start.
‘‘I was linked in with the appropriate groups to equip me with the right tools to change my lifestyle.’’
“I didn't feel any stigma for the fact that I was a woman with children and a pre-existing mental health disorder. This helped me to become more confident and I wanted to get involved with volunteering for Achieve so that I could help others.”
Having completed the First Step Relapse Prevention course, and with her recovery becoming more secure, Nicola decided to pursue a role with the PSI team at Achieve Salford. In preparation, she enrolled on the Achieve training course, ‘Practically Volunteering’, which covers the transition process of moving from being a service user to pursuing a role as a volunteer, it also aids people without lived experience to gain crucial knowledge. Nicola was so impressed by the course, describing it as “amazing”, that she was keen to take part in the training which would enable her to co-facilitate the course and support its’ rolling out to other areas.
“I felt well prepared for the interview for the PSI role from what I had learned on the Practically Volunteering course,” she said. “I was successful in getting the role and I’m now enjoying being a valued member of the PSI team, delivering relapse prevention sessions to other service users.”
Nicola is a fantastic ambassador for Achieve and has also been helping with the Achieve Community Development Team. Through her volunteer work she’s been involved in Hate Crime Awareness events, International Women’s’ Day, Suicide awareness month and Recovery Month.
Nicola concluded: “I really enjoy being involved in Community development, as you reach more service users at different stages of recovery, and it's great to see how much is done to try and engage with the community.”
Much work is being done this week across Achieve and GMMH to support Alcohol Awareness week. Nicola is also hugely supportive of the campaign which aims to bring attention to our relationship with drinking and the impact it has on our mental health. Throughout Alcohol Awareness Week Nicola will be involved with Achieve’ s online events that are open to attend.
Details of how to join in can be found at https://www.gmmh.nhs.uk/news/alcohol-awareness-week-with-achieve-4293