Jami clients make ap­peal­ing case for its work

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY NEWS - BY BARRY TOBERMAN

FOR JON, “be­ing di­ag­nosed with de­pres­sion has af­fected ev­ery tiny atom of my life. I have lived through great highs and huge lows — lows where I have even tried to end my life.”

In An­drew’s case, “be­com­ing dis­abled, an ac­ri­mo­nious di­vorce, work and fi­nan­cial stress was enough. How­ever, los­ing con­tact with my three daugh­ters was the fi­nal straw. All that had been keep­ing me go­ing evap­o­rated and I suf­fered a huge break­down.”

Jacs has “lost a num­ber of jobs over the years — I was even asked not to come back to my own busi­ness. At my low­est, I gave up on the idea of work­ing again.”

Michael’s sis­ter Saman­tha has “al­ways strug­gled with her men­tal health. But when our mother died, it sent her into a down­ward spi­ral. As her carer, I worry ev­ery day about who will take care of her when I’m gone.”

Based on let­ters they had writ­ten, the sto­ries of Jon, An­drew, Jacs and Michael were among those fea­tured in an af­fect­ing ap­peal video at the Lon­don din­ner of men­tal health char­ity Jami, which sup­ports 1,300 peo­ple an­nu­ally.

Two 12-year-old JCoSS pupils, Matthew and Al­fie were also shown in the video, the for­mer con­fess­ing: “Some­times it’s hard to talk about my feel­ings be­cause I don’t think my teach­ers and fam­ily re­ally un­der­stand.”

The film sub­jects spoke of how Jami was help­ing them to get their lives back on track. For ex­am­ple, Jon — who at one point was “des­per­ate for help, liv­ing in the back of a bor­rowed car, only eat­ing once a day” — had, with Jami’s as­sis­tance, got off the streets, re­dis­cov­ered his cre­ativ­ity and was seek­ing em­ploy­ment for the first time in more than two years.

“Maybe I’m just get­ting there. I’m alive to­day be­cause of Jami.”

Speak­ing to the JC at the din­ner, held at One Maryle­bone and at­tended by more than 300 sup­port­ers, Jacs (Jacquelyn Gud­er­ley) re­vealed that be­cause of men­tal health is­sues, she had to take con­sid­er­able pe­ri­ods off work “al­most ev­ery year since 2012”.

The 31-year-old North Lon­doner, a high aca­demic achiever work­ing in the field of gen­der equal­ity and so­cial en­ter­prise, re­called be­com­ing “very anx­ious” af­ter a break­down. I thought I was dy­ing. I cut my­self off from ev­ery­one.”

Rec­om­mended to get in touch with Jami ear­lier this year, she was “ap­pre­hen­sive. I wasn’t so­cial­is­ing and I don’t like shar­ing my story. But they ac­cepted me as I was. They are like a fam­ily. They made me feel I was cared for.”

Jami clients “all get one an­other”, she added. “We un­der­stand how hard men­tal health can be.”

Ms Gud­er­ley has been vol­un­teer­ing at Jami’s Bore­ham­wood ware­house, in­volved in up­cy­cling work. She has re­cently held down short-term jobs and said that with Jami’s sup­port, “it’s got bet­ter and bet­ter”.

Michael (Fier­stone) is feel­ing more con­fi­dent about the fu­ture for him­self and his sis­ter since con­tact­ing Jami two years ago.

Mr Fier­stone, 57, is based in Stan­more; Saman­tha, 51, lives in their late mother’s flat in Cock­fos­ters and has not worked in years. “If you meet her, you would say there’s some­thing not quite right but you would not be able to put your fin­ger on what,” Mr Fier­stone ex­plained. “She can just about get by but needs help in run­ning the home.”

His sis­ter at­tends Jami’s Edg­ware cen­tre and is sup­ported by a so­cial worker. “She has made friends, although she finds in­ter­ac­tion very dif­fi­cult,” he said.

“I can’t tell you how much of a dif­fer­ence it’s made. I also have the con­fi­dence (op­po­site) Michael Fier­stone read­ing their sto­ries in the ap­peal video of know­ing I have peo­ple who will sup­port me. I was des­per­ate.”

The din­ner crowd in­cluded two ta­bles from Young Jami, whose chair, Gabi Men­del­sohn, said men­tal health was “a ma­jor is­sue for our gen­er­a­tion”. The guest speaker was en­tre­pre­neur and men­tal health cam­paigner Lord Den­nis Steven­son, who dur­ing an in­for­mal and en­ter­tain­ing ad­dress, said he was “im­pressed out of sight with Jami”.

He could not think of a men­tal health char­ity op­er­at­ing on a sim­i­lar scale in the non-statu­tory world. He added that from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, “peo­ple in the depths of men­tal ill health who are loved don’t al­ways feel it”.

Doug Krik­ler, Jami’s chair, said its chal­lenge, “and our chal­lenge as a com­mu­nity, is to fo­cus both on early in­ter­ven­tion and build­ing re­silience across all gen­er­a­tions”.

Trustee Deb­bie Fox said the char­ity needed to raise £2 mil­lion an­nu­ally and that de­mand for its ser­vices was in­creas­ing. More than £350,000 was raised on the night.

There were huge lows — I even tried to end my life’

Jacquelyn Gud­er­ley and

Jacquelyn Gud­er­ley with Lord Steven­son and Gabi Men­del­sohn

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