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Bristol Property Live interview Changes' Project Manager

19 March 2018

Bristol and Me article

Changes Bristol's Jason Washbourne talks about the charity and his own journey in this article in Bristol Property Live.

Changes Bristol evolved from the ground up, when people who had mental health issues came together to form a support group. It became a charity and today we run 12 weekly groups around Bristol.

Nine years ago I had a dip in my mental health and reached out for any help I could get. Because of NHS waiting lists, Changes was the only thing available straight away. The peer support meeting was the first time I’d been somewhere and listened to people talking about stuff I recognised in myself. I realised I wasn’t alone. It helped give me back my confidence, and a support network – you feel a burden talking to your family.

I didn’t talk at that first meeting. It’s daunting, but the first step is important – you’re proving to yourself you’re trying to help yourself. You can come and not say anything, listen to other people’s stories, and gradually start to trust other people; it’s about help making positive changes, however small. People might want to discuss things within their own specific peer group, so we have a women-only group, and two for over-55s.

As project manager I oversee the charity’s work, but do hands-on stuff as well; I still help facilitate groups, although they’re generally facilitated by volunteers. I still sometimes attend for my own mental health, too – it fluctuates so much over your lifetime, it’s not linear. With Changes groups you manage your own recovery, come for as long as you like. People who’ve not been for years may ring and ask “Have you still got that group in Horfield?”

Understanding of mental health has massively improved, but we still see a lot of stigma. Ask people to write down what ‘physical health’ conjures in their minds, it will generally be positive – going running, the gym, walking – whereas ‘mental health’ will be about being depressed. We’ve all got mental health, it’s about making ourselves as healthy as possible. Until we think in different ways, the stigma will be there. 

Changes Bristol Project Manager