Martin’s story

“I feel as if someone has put new batteries in to me”

Themes: Skills building; physical activity; men’s groups; mental health

Martin is a warm and engaging person with a varied career and an impressive background of community engagement and community awards. He has always gone that extra mile to support others.

In recent years Martin experienced some personal setbacks in his life. Whilst he was working in education with young offenders, he suffered a devastating physical attack which led to an extended spell in hospital and had long-term physical and mental health impact. Martin’s relationship ended and, through no fault of his own, he found himself at a very low point, lacking support, unable to work, without a home or access to his children.

Before the attack, Martin had a busy life working in a variety of fields including deep sea diver, mini bus driver, educator and GMB Union representative and he enjoyed water sports as a hobby. He was a respite foster carer and part of his Safer Neighbourhood Support team for many years. Martin has done a lot of volunteering, including working with people with disabilities, supporting local schools and community groups organising outings and events. During preparation for the 2012 Olympics, Martin was personally asked by film director Danny Boyle to carry out an environmental aquatic food planting scheme for the Olympic rowing course with the Sea Scouts and Youth club members he had led for many years.

The normally upbeat, gregarious Martin was deeply affected by what happened to him at work, his situation was compounded by the Covid pandemic, and was in a low place when he first encountered Mina, our Employability and Training Project Manager. They met at a walking group recommended by his NHS physiotherapist and soon developed a friendship and strong rapport. Mina was then able to encourage Martin to join Creative Skills Mornings at the Centre, a project she runs that builds skills for the creative industries. He was unsure at first, but with Mina’s persistence, decided to try a session and now Martin attends every week, is rebuilding his confidence, meeting new friends and has commenced a journey of recovery and renewal; finding his true value and sense of purpose again.

He says,

‘If it hadn’t been for Mina, I don’t know where I would have ended up. She’s a bright, shining star with a warm heart. I was so down but now, I feel as if someone has put new batteries in to me.’

However, Martin has not only made a lot of personal progress, he has become a key contributor to the group.

Mina smiles and comments,

‘Martin’s energy is an inspiration and in truth, we don’t know where we’d be without him! He is incredibly supportive of the group and bursting with ideas and always willing to get involved. His fun archery sessions at the Centre have got so many people fired-up.’

Martin is now back involved in community participation. He attends and recruits others to join men’s weekly non-judgemental groups for their mental health including ‘Talk to Terry’. He has collaborated with his friend musical artist Macky Gee who helps build awareness about men’s mental health issues.

Martin still has physical symptoms to manage but they are no longer holding him back. His plan for the future is clear, “in a few years, I’ll be living by the sea” he concludes “but not just putting my feet up, I’ll be embedded in my local community in no time, encouraging people to recognise their true worth, just as I’ve been helped to re-recognise mine.”

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