Into the unknown: in praise of CAPE

Today I ventured, literally, into the unknown. I visited a local charity for people with Mental Illness to get help with my ESA50 form. I was scared. I went to bed early last night having looked over the form and then woke at 2:50am. I had a shower and washed my hair as I had an early appointment in a strange place. Firstly I went to the wrong address. And then I went to the right address. Dear me. The wrong address is on the nicest street in my area – a place of handmade artisan bread, fresh coffee, wine-tasting and fancy flower shops. The charity has a shop there. They directed me to the other address. The situation of this place IS NOT the charities fault, they are local and I know they have very high demand – there is a major mental health centre a stone’s throw away – a secure centre. The space has been given them by the council, or it’s all they could afford.  So, ok, it’s down an alley. Fine. But the alley is used for massive fly tipping. Massive. It stinks and there was a lot of human excrement around. However, the interior of the charity could not be more different. I only saw one big room that had an old school cafe hatch dispensing cheap tea, coffee and food, there are tables, chairs, couches, board games and two computers. A partition allows people privacy to have appointments with helpers. I had an appointment with a helper called Ade. An advisor rather than helper.

Ade should not have been seeing me. To get help from this very over subscribed charity, you have to be referred by a Mental Health Specialist. I have been in contact with the charity for months, and they know I’m trying to get referred, so they made an exception for me, and allowed me to see Ade. He’s in the centre every two weeks, and he has a queue.

Before I get to the interview I had with him, I want to make an observation. Everyone in the room was obviously very ill. They were all older than me, it was a 50:50 male/female split, but it was definitely weighed in terms of ethnicity – there were more black people than white. Some were in wheelchairs and many were just sitting in silence with members of (volunteer) staff moving around the space and engaging them in conversation. I was there at lunch time, and only once, but this was my observation of the place. It’s not the first time I’ve been in a space like this, but before it was the waiting room of the Secure Mental Unit I mentioned before, where I used to have CBT appointments. Same atmosphere, but less talking.

Ade. Ade was super helpful, and calm in the face of my jabbering (boy did I jabber – 1000 miles an hour, nerves, sweating… gah), gave me good advice and welcomed my contacting him in the future and said he would look through my form. This is the best I could hope for. He was so calm – he showed no shock or disgust in his face or manner. No judgement. He’d be an excellent poker player. And that’s what I needed. A panic block. The meeting did not take long (I didn’t want to take up the time of others) but was not rushed by Ade – it was enough. Many times I’ve gone for help, and been rushed. I realised that I was not ill as many of the people in that room, but when asked by a member of staff who I was, and what I was doing there, my problems did peep out – I got confused, mumbled and forgot things. I was impressed by the staff. The lady who questioned me did so because the charity is a Safe Space for it’s Clients, and Staff. They need to know who they let in. Also, because they are a small charity, they can’t let just anyone in. They don’t have the staff or resources. The same staff member photographed a client’s leg (which had a sore) and took the photo to the nearby doctor, came back and had an appointment for the lady. Practical help. And so immediate – amazing.

So, CAPE: is the charity. It has a shop at 41 Churchfield Road, Acton. I shall be supporting said shop as much as I can. I don’t want those with mental health or any health problems (sores on legs for example) having to walk or wheel through human poo, used nappies and urine soaked bedding to get to a safe haven – the safe should start outside.

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