Help is there with mental health

FRIENDLY Gary Bricknell and Marie Perkiss, centre front, with staff, volunteers, and service users at The Orchards in Milton. From left, nurse practitioner Shirley Mitchell, co-ordinator Martin Dunning, service user Des Handley, volunteer Lorraine Bryant, and service user Vinnie McCaffery. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (131256-2)
FRIENDLY Gary Bricknell and Marie Perkiss, centre front, with staff, volunteers, and service users at The Orchards in Milton. From left, nurse practitioner Shirley Mitchell, co-ordinator Martin Dunning, service user Des Handley, volunteer Lorraine Bryant, and service user Vinnie McCaffery. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (131256-2)
From left, Dr Elizabeth Fellows, Dr Linda Collie and Dr Barbara Rushton, who are taking part in the Pompey CEO Sleepout  ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (180404-9770)

Portsmouth GPs sign up to sleep on pitch to support homeless

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During their darkest hour, when they felt there was no way out, suicide had been an option.

Both Gary Bricknell and Marie Perkiss have battled with post traumatic stress disorder.

And when they felt there was no way out, they both contemplated ending their lives.

But then they found hope.

They found hope – and help – from The Orchards.

The centre in Locksway Road, Milton, Portsmouth, provides day care treatment for people suffering from mental illnesses.

Gary, 51, and Marie,59, want to share their stories during Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday.

Gary, of Devonshire Avenue, Southsea, used to work as a private taxi driver.

But two years ago he said he was attacked by three passengers, who had flagged him down in the street.

He says: ‘I had been a taxi driver in Portsmouth for about 10 years and loved the job.

‘One day, about two years ago I picked three blokes at 3pm from Osborne Road, to go to North End.

‘I was tormented for 40 minutes in the car, while I was driving.

‘They threw hot drinks on me, one was holding my neck from behind, and after a while I passed out.’

Gary says he blamed himself for the incident, as he wasn’t supposed to pick up unbooked passengers, and never reported it to the police.

Slowly he became withdrawn from work and started missing payments.

The home he shared with his wife Susan was repossessed, and Gary hit an all-time low.

‘It was Boxing Day in 2011, and I wanted to end it all.

‘If there had been a bus in the street, I would’ve jumped in front of it.’

In a final plea for help, Gary locked himself in a room at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital, where staff found him.

He was referred to The Orchards.

Martin Dunning, day treatment co-ordinator, explains what happens at the centre.

He says: ‘The first thing we do is offer people hope.

‘It’s about empowering people and letting them recognise their feelings. It’s about honesty.

‘In talking to, and getting to know the person, we discuss what support suits them, and help them do the things they want to do.

‘Some people get involved in group activities, others have individual support; it all depends on the discussions we have.’

The service offers classes and therapies to help to increase employment, training or volunteering prospects.

Gary says: ‘The first word I heard at The Orchards was “hope”.

‘The effect wasn’t immediate, but slowly I started to feel normal.

‘Day to day I saw friendly faces and listened to other people’s stories. I was also given a diagnosis.’

Gary is now running a class on ‘mindfulness’ which teaches people to appreciate and think about small everyday tasks which others take for granted.

He has also started up a service user support group called Mind the Gap.

The group meets once a week and enjoys doing activities such as patchwork.

He says: ‘There is a stigma attached to mental health illnesses.

‘But there is help out there, and people should access it.

‘It affects people from all walks of life, for different reasons.’

Former service user Marie, of Marina Grove, Copnor, had worked as a general nurse for 35 years.

Throughout that time she suffered from many traumas, including two cases of breast cancer, her partner leaving her, being a full-time carer for her bipolar son, and her home going up in flames.

Her younger son Chris recognised his mum was becoming isolated and not herself, so took her to the doctors.

She was diagnosed with reactive depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

Marie says: ‘I couldn’t see further than the end of a day.

‘When I first started my treatment, I didn’t want to be there.

‘Then I started to realise there was a bit more to life.

‘Very slowly the treatment was making a difference.

‘It took my mind off things.’

Marie is also a volunteer and runs mood for food sessions and textile classes.


MENTAL Health Awareness Week is all about bringing the issue to the forefront of people’s minds.

The week, which started in 2000, is run by the charity Mental Health Foundation.

The charity is committed to reducing the suffering caused by mental ill health and to help everyone lead mentally healthier lives.

It also helps people to survive, recover from and prevent mental health problems.

It does this by:

· Carrying out research.

· Developing practical solutions for better mental health services.

· Campaigning to reduce stigma and discrimination.

· Promoting better mental health for all.

Each year the charity picks a theme for the awareness week, and this time it’s focusing on physical activity and exercise.

Matthew Hall, associate director of adult mental health for Solent NHS Trust, said: ‘We provide a wide range of adult mental health services for residents of Portsmouth and surrounding areas.

‘We work with health partners, particularly GPs, to ensure the services we have meet the needs of the communities we serve.

‘Mental Health Awareness Week, for us, presents an opportunity to remind people about the importance of taking care of themselves physically and mentally.

‘The theme for this year’s week aptly describes some of the things we all should be considering.

‘Physical activity shouldn’t be something we do to improve physical health, it really does make help promote mental health wellbeing as it has a potential to enhance our happiness.’


IN THE Portsmouth area, mental health services are run by Solent NHS Trust.

The trust has a range of services, designed to help and support people, and their families, who are suffering from a wide range of mental health problems.

Here are some of the services offered:

· Community Development Service

A team that works in partnership with a range of organisations and communities to improve access and outcomes with mental health services for minority communities. For more information, call (023) 9275 5485.

· Talking change

Provides practical resources to support people affected by mental illness. Individuals can self-refer to this service to receive a range of treatments recommended for different problems. To find out more, visit

People are being given the chance to learn more about mental health services, through a number of activities:

On Thursday learn about mindfulness at St James’ Hospital, in Locksway Road, Milton, from 10am to 11am.

On Friday, it’s the launch of the Solent NHS Trust choir.

The launch is taking place at St James’ Hospital,from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.

To find out more information about the choir, or to join, contact Alex Lewis on (023) 8060 8929 or email

On the same day people can find out more about the community development worker role.

People are invited to the Friendship Centre, in Elm Grove, Southsea, from noon to 4pm.