"Occupational Therapy Gave Me My Confidence Back", Says Sheffield Mental Health Patient

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Donna, a service user at Cygnet Hospital Sheffield, has spoken about how engagement with the Occupational Therapy team set her on the right path and improved her confidence, communication skills, awareness of self and others, community skills and developing her trust in trying new things.

Cygnet Hospital Sheffield is a 55-bed hospital which offers a low secure service for women and CAMHS services for male and female adolescents over three distinct wards.

I was admitted to Cygnet Sheffield, Spencer Ward in October 2022. It took me nearly three months to engage with the Occupational Therapy (OT) team, I ignored their initial attempts to get me involved in meaningful activities. At previous services prior to Cygnet, others would always try and get me to do things that I didn’t want to do. It was never around my interests, it was generic activities that everyone else had to do. The team would always try, but I would just ignore them and say ‘I don’t do OT’.

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Nobody has ever given up on me at Cygnet Hospital Sheffield, and I like that about staff here, they genuinely care. They kept trying and I started to talk more to them, about what I liked and what I wanted to do. I said I liked sea life and the OT suggested taking me to The Deep, in Hull. This was the first time I had gone anywhere since being on Spencer Ward, as I had been too scared before.

Donna with her Occupational Therapy AssistantDonna with her Occupational Therapy Assistant
Donna with her Occupational Therapy Assistant

The Psychologist came with us, to support any anxieties I had. I was unsure how I felt whilst I was there, I struggled to fully enjoy it but I wanted to go back and take more photos, as I had hardly taken any on that first visit.

With the support of the OT, I started to use my leave. I had a lot of anxiety about being by myself and being out in the community. We worked on spending time alone, with the OT initially staying with me, but then she would walk to the shop to get us a drink, so I’d work up to 15 minutes alone to then my full 30 minutes. This really helped, I became more confident in being in my own company in the community.

I love milkshakes. At first, I was supported to make these on the ward in the OT Kitchen. The OT then suggested supporting me in the community to go for a Milkshake. We started by going to some quiet cafes, I was anxious and I didn’t want to order my own drinks. However I continued to go out for weekly milkshakes, and my team encouraged me to try different venues. Eventually, I went somewhere and requested a table for three and managed to order everyone’s drinks. This gave me the confidence to try new places. I have been trying all different flavours, I really liked the Fruits of the Forest and Pink Bubble gum Milkshake.

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We went back to The Deep, it was much better this time. There wasn’t as many people there, and I found I was seeing things that I had missed the first time. I also took loads of photos. It was great. I loved the penguins and the shark with the funny shaped head.

Donna, a service user at Cygnet Hospital SheffieldDonna, a service user at Cygnet Hospital Sheffield
Donna, a service user at Cygnet Hospital Sheffield

I love Disney so when my OT asked me where I would go if I could choose anywhere, I replied “Disneyland.” The following day, my OT approached me and asked if I would like to go to Disney on Ice at Sheffield Arena at the end of November. I was quite anxious about this, but they reassured me and said I could select the staff to support me.

On one of my community leaves, we drove next to Arena so I could see where it was, and how big it was. This really helped, and they explained how many people would be there, and how it would look inside.

Disney on Ice was fantastic, superb in fact. The pig from Toy Story was my favourite. I even ordered drinks for us all, even though it was busy. I had butterflies from the start and all the way through, a mix of excitement and nerves I think. I was so pleased with myself for being around 8,000+ people.

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I have loved Diversity, ever since I saw them on Britain’s got Talent. Since seeing Disney on Ice I have wanted to go and do something else ‘big’. I asked if I could go to see Diversity with the OTA, and he arranged this straight away, coming in on his day off to support me. We were out for hours, I overcame another goal of eating out for the first time, something I am usually really conscious about. I feel really proud of myself for achieving what I did.

The OT team have also supported me with nutrition. I decided to follow a vegan diet a few months ago, I have struggled at times to understand what is vegan and what isn’t. My OT supported me with a visual ‘accidentally vegan’ poster she made, so I knew what I could look to buy in the shops. I enjoy shopping now and the staff help me in finding things I can eat, but it has taken me a long time to agree to cook anything. I have been buying tinned vegan soup, tinned beans and sausages, but staff will warm these up for me.

I was given the opportunity to try cooking but I kept saying no. However, I heard from others that the OTA was a good chef, so I felt reassured. We decided to make cottage pie, after getting the ingredients together. It was my first time in the kitchen since making a cheese toastie months ago – I helped support him, and he showed me what to do for future sessions. It was super tasty.

My advice to someone considering engaging with OT is to give them a chance, you won’t regret it. The OT team have really brought me out of my shell and given me the confidence in the community. I enjoy going out with them. If you are nervous about working with your OT Team, just listen to them, they are really supportive and will offer you one-to-one time too.

If you don’t like it, they will always bring you back, they are so reassuring and supportive.