Fighting Back

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"I felt as if my life had been crumpled up and thrown in the bin." Helen overcame mental health problems and now volunteers to help others.


"When I was diagnosed manic depressive, I felt as if my life had been crumpled up and thrown in the bin. My life as a single parent of three and my success as mature student was shattered. Luckily I had a good friend who encouraged and supported me which helped me regain my confidence. As my mental health improved I decided to help others in the same boat. My chance came when BURD, a user-run, user-led, mental health drop-in opened. I was one of the founder volunteers. I took on position of Treasurer as well as being on hand to help and support visitors. Being a volunteer at BURD has helped me stay well and increase my self esteem and confidence but my life hasn't all been plain sailing.

In November '96 my grandson Liam was born weighing only 1lb 9. He only survived 6 weeks. A little over a year later, my Nan passed away, she was 93. Within a year I lost the youngest and oldest members of my family but good things followed. National Poetry Day 2000 was really exciting. My grandson, Nathan was born, and I recited my own poems for the first time. To help with my work in BURD, I took a BTEC course in counselling skills. To celebrate BURD's fourth year, loads of people were invited to the centre. I gave the opening speech (laughs), I've never been so nervous in all my life. I was presented with a certificate recognising my voluntary work.

I hope that my success will encourage others to follow their dreams when everything seems stacked against them. Now I'm proud of my achievements, of what I am and who I am."

By: Helen Potter
Published: November 2001

An interview with the author

Could you tell us something about yourself?
I'm a single parent of three grown up children and grandmother to two surviving grandchildren. At the age of twenty eight I went to college where I studied various GCSEs, computers, typing and was finally awarded a HND in Business and Finance. A failed suicide attempt in July 1995 led to a stay in a psychiatric unit and a diagnosis of manic depression.

Who's your story for?
I made this digital story to give hope to others who may encounter mental health problems. The road to recovery is sometimes a slow one, but can be achieved with a little patience and determination.

Did you enjoy making it?
Well, it was hard work and quite emotional but seeing the end product was both exciting and fulfilling. All the people who took part in the workshop were friendly and supportive.
I'd like to thank BBC Wales for giving me the opportunity to experience this style of media.

Your comments

"I had the honour of travelling with Helen on a train last Friday. She was full of joy and excitement (also a little nervous. Travelling alone is stressful. I was genuinely influenced by Helen's determination to succeed and was pleased to see that she has set herself 3 more goals for 2008. I was so touched by her strengh and courage, that I've told her story to many and even purchased a book by Dave Pelzer which she so passionately recommended. Helen. It was a pleasure meeting you - I will write to you soon for an update on your goals for 2008 - stay strong and keep inspiring others!"
Adrian Clark, Chepstow.

"I found this story informative and useful, as I have a nervous disorder and sometimes think that life is not worth it. The example of Helen is a beacon, showing us that if we persevere, anything is possible."
Mark Taylor, Wrexham, Wales.

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