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Family Action’s BAND service in Bolton has supported people with their mental health for decades through hands-on help and guidance, information and a combination of one to one and group support.

Here Jo explains how the service’s LifeSkills sessions have supported them to get out, make friends and learn new skills. 

I’ve struggled with my mental health all my life, but I started accessing support services at Family Action’s community mental health service BAND in Bolton nearly three years ago.

They run a lot of different activities, such as a growing project, quiz evenings, a FOOD Club, and a mentoring scheme.

The team are incredibly helpful – I have a mentor there, for instance, who helps me during both my highs and lows and they encourage me to attend activities when I don’t have the confidence to leave the house.

The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but particularly so for those with mental health challenges, and the support from BAND has been invaluable to me.

I started attending the LifeSkills sessions to grow my confidence, learn new things and meet new people.

The facilitator is really lovely and he explains things clearly so you understand everything. He doesn’t make the sessions 100% serious either, and likes to include a few jokes for us!

This makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable to speak as part of a group, which isn’t always easy.

Family Action runs the sessions face to face but if you can’t get out of the house for any reason – maybe because your mental health isn’t good that day, for example – you can join by Zoom and still take part from your house so you still feel part of the group.

They always recap what we’ve done previously, and the facilitator makes suggestions for what we can do afterward, so we can continue to learn at home.

After the sessions we all have a tasty lunch together (I really liked the sweet potato curry we had recently!) which is lovely as you get to chat, meet new people and feel less isolated, which has been especially important following COVID-19.

The sessions are varied and you always learn something new.

Learning about cybercrime last week was very interesting and I learnt a lot about how to protect myself online.

I hadn’t realised I needed to change my password quite so often, so I’m making sure I do so now.

I also learnt about making sure I access official websites. I have been caught out before by buying things from a scam site, so this was really interesting for me.

Finally, we’ve also learnt about personal budgeting.

Due to my mental health, I don’t always realise how much I spend and can go overdrawn. The boost to universal credit which was introduced during the pandemic ends next month so it’s vital I keep an eye on my spending. I’m going to take heed of what we learnt about budgeting and use the budget template the facilitator gave us to do my own budget ready for when I get my benefits next week – that way I know I can keep on track of things. We’ve also learnt about banking terms and different savings techniques which I hadn’t heard of before.

I think LifeSkills sessions have offered me and the whole group such a lot. You can have a laugh and a chat with other people, learn new things and become more confident about talking in a group.

During COVID-19 it’s also gotten me out of the house, and given me something to look forward to.

I’ve also found it’s gotten me eating healthier and learning new recipes… and I have even made new friends!

Find out more about our BAND service or, if like the author of this article, you’re struggling with finance or any aspect of family life, you can contact our FamilyLine service or access the Barclays LifeSkills resources for free.