One Step at a Time

“There’s not a lot of places where your social worker will meet with you outside or agree to go for a walk. [The Streetscape team] is great for meeting people where they’re at,” says David*.

David first met Sarai, a Streetscape case worker with Mission Services of London’s Community Mental Health Programs (CMHP), in 2019. He admits he was in a bad place. He had recently been discharged from the hospital after experiencing a mental health crisis. After completing CMHP’s nine-week Transitional Case Management program, he needed additional support.

“It’s brought me a real sense of stability to talk to someone like Sarai once a week,” David says. “For me to have a connection to sort through everything.”

Everything, for David, is a combination of post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression, which he self-treated for years with alcohol. Following a workplace accident, and after being caught driving under the influence, he lost his job. His marriage ended around the same time and he has not seen his children since moving to London 10 years ago.

“There was so much stress all happening at the same time,” he says. “So much stress and I didn’t handle it the right way.”

“Family court is my main goal,” David continues. “I’ve got two kids who are teenagers now. I can’t call them or get in touch with them and that’s not right. It hurts so much that I just have to numb myself to it.”

Young man in t shirt

Sarai gives David credit for recognizing how his destructive behaviour was affecting his children and deciding to protect them, even if it meant sacrificing years of time spent together. His commitment to his children can be seen by the work he’s done in individual and group therapy over the years.

“I’ve seen how hard he’s worked to be strong enough to fight for his kids,” she says. “It’s a big step just to get started with paperwork and meeting with lawyers, but he’s doing it”.

Sarai helps David navigate the court system, is present during meetings to provide emotional support, and advocates for him if need be. The meetings can cause a lot of anxiety so she helps him to stay calm and remember important details. They go for walks on a weekly basis to catch up on the events of the week, develop coping skills, and set new goals.

While David’s main focus is on getting visitation access to his children, he is also working on another important goal. He has been drinking for his whole adult life but has begun the process of reducing how much alcohol he consumes; his goal is to reach sobriety for the long-term. David says he is now at just 2% alcohol content and aims to reach 0% by the end of the summer.

“People don’t know that once your body has been dependent on alcohol for so long, it can kill you to stop drinking suddenly,” says Sarai. “Change can take time and can take a lot of baby steps.”

For David, being able to speak openly with supportive people has helped reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. He finds purpose and strength in community and now wants to help others he meets in various groups around the city.

David knows that Streetscape is there for him. In Sarai’s words: “It’s all about walking the journey with him, one step at a time.”

*At his request, David’s name and photo have been changed to protect his privacy.

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