My Noah’s A.R.T. Story
“I am no longer just a person labelled with mental health problems. “
How it began
Nerys first met Noah’s A.R.T. when she was an inpatient in an NHS mental health unit, and the animals made a series of monthly visits to the ward. She had been a service-user of mental health services for a long time, and described herself as a ‘revolving door’ patient.
There weren’t many activities available on the ward, but one day Nerys happened to notice a sign advertising the pet therapy visits.
“I walked into the lounge and was welcomed by a small group of people and animals, including dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and rats. I began by holding my first guinea pig, Blue Suede.
I couldn't wait for the Noah’s A.R.T. team to visit again. It was also the first time I had looked forward to anything in years. The anhedonia had shifted. A month seemed a long time to wait to see them again.”
When the session was over, I filled in a feedback form and stated that I had felt happiness for the first time in a long time. My family tell me that when they spoke to me that evening on the telephone, I was the most animated I had been for years. I told them that my voices had been quiet the whole time I had been with the animals.
Nerys managed to attend every session on the ward. The psychiatrist and ward staff noticed an improvement in her, with more smiling, eye contact and wearing brighter colours again.
“The second and third visits were equally good. I got chatting to a member of the team, Alana. She told me about herself and her story of recovery, and told me about the centre in Dukinfield. Ideas started to come into my head about visiting them when I was discharged. I started to have something to aim for when I was back home."
Then what happened?
When she was discharged, Nerys attended every session of Noah’s A.R.T.’s pop up café project at Burnage. When it finished, she asked if she could volunteer with Noah’s A.R.T. Nerys began volunteering every week at Therapy Thursday.
“I would like to highlight a particular relationship I have with one of the clients. B has dementia and depression and was isolated before coming to Therapy Thursdays. I have worked with her most weeks for an hour. I feel we relate well with each other. I feel that I am facilitating a situation which allows her some positive engagement each week.”
After a while, Nerys’ confidence grew and she has progressed to volunteering two days per week at the Noah’s A.R.T. centre, as well as supporting occasional outreach sessions.
She suffered a relapse during a particularly stressful time, but stayed in touch and has since returned to volunteering.
“Had it been before my involvement with Noah’s A.R.T. I most likely would have ended up in hospital. However, unlike previous stressful situations, I was determined not to let anything spoil what I had achieved and the sense of fulfilment I had gained from this work.”
Here’s what Nerys has to say about her experience at Noah’s A.R.T.:
“All in all, meeting and being involved with Noah’s A.R.T. has totally changed my life for the better. I feel part of something, most importantly a real sense of belonging, one I haven’t felt in other work situations. It has given me a life worth living and meaning in my life. It has helped to break the feeling of being a burden. I am no longer just a person labelled with mental health problems. You could also say that, alongside the rescued animals, I feel ‘rescued’ from a state of limbo and being in the wilderness.”