With a background of working with older people in social care, as well as having received support himself, Phillip volunteers at Look Ahead as an Expert By Experience (EBE) trainer for staff. EBE trainers use their lived experience to educate and improve the quality of support on offer at Look Ahead.
Before I came to Look Ahead, I used to work at a care provider supporting older people. There came a point where I started getting really stressed, and I was hiding it. I was brought up to have a “stiff upper lip,” and I felt embarrassed about the stigma around sharing my feelings, especially as a man.
I started drinking more and more alcohol, and took a lot of sick leave from work, I became really isolated as I didn’t want to see anyone either.
After attending a mental health training session at work one day the reality hit me that my situation wasn’t healthy. I was worried about myself, and more importantly those in my care, so I stopped working and I went to the GP to be referred for support.
The support I received from the local authority made a huge difference, but I noticed how under strain the system is. Despite being supported by my local social services team, I spent time in an out of borough placement, away from my loved ones in a city I didn’t know, it was horrible. Some years on, I can see that the experience motivated me to play my part in improving social care wherever and however I can.
Look Ahead gave me an opportunity to do just that. I joined as a volunteer back in 2020, after my social services employment support specialist put me in touch. I started out doing peer support work at a service in West London, I enjoyed using my skills like cooking to get customers engaged.
Before long, Look Ahead’s Co-production Team encouraged me to listen in on an Expert By Experience training session. I found it all very inspiring, and I wanted to give it a try too. Now I run regular sessions of my own with the team. My sessions involve teaching staff about mental health, how best to work with customers who have support needs, how to look after their own wellbeing, and educating them on the stigma. The sessions are fantastic, I always keep them interactive, so I know the key information is being taken in. I get so much fulfilment from every session.
Look Ahead also put me in touch with DeStress, a project led by Exeter University which offers GPs training on supporting patients experiencing mental distress in areas of deprivation. I now get to train GPs nationwide.
I’m also a Governor at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust now. I sit on the trust’s Senior Management Team where I represent family carers, partners and other unpaid individuals who look after people with mental health support needs.
I feel optimistic about the future. I am focused on my mission to improve the quality of care, and I am grateful for the part Look Ahead has played in this so far. It has really changed my life.