From the moment Stuart Arfield first walked through the door of the Sheffield Mind mental health and wellbeing service he knew he was “in the right place”.

Stuart sought help after a series of life events, including the breakdown of his marriage of more than 40 years and the death of a close university friend, left him depressed.

“I couldn’t cope,” he said. “But I knew I needed help.”

The 61-year-old contacted Sheffield Mind, a BACP organisational member, after reading on the internet about their Ageing Better project.

The counselling service for people aged 50+ who are at high risk of social isolation and loneliness is part of Age Better in Sheffield, funded through the National Lottery and led by South Yorkshire Housing.

It provides one-to-one counselling and group therapy for people aged 50 and over who are experiencing low mental wellbeing.

Stuart, who lives in Sheffield, said: “I’m a working-class man and I never thought of counselling or help. I was very much a person who would think ‘depressed? Come on, there are worse things.’.

“I have known friends who have been depressed – I didn’t know at that time how far you can go down.”

It felt natural

Stuart began one-to-one counselling sessions at Sheffield Mind, which lasted around six months.

“Right from the off I felt I was in the right place,” he said. “The first session I just felt it natural to start talking. The counsellor was very skilled in letting me talk.

“I found it beneficial to talk uninterrupted with someone. It’s a really powerful thing.

“It’s something a friend can’t really supply – they would have to be a very good friend – and I did find it a very powerful thing.

“I wanted to talk. If you are not ready for it then it might not be the right thing for you, but how you would go on if you really didn’t want to talk then I don’t know.”

Richard Brocklehurst is the counselling service clinical lead and BACP member. He said: ““Counselling is about you as a person. Every person that comes in to our organisation and comes into therapy is seen as an individual.

“You will have that space to explore how you feel, about who you are and how things can be better for you.

“The satisfaction is building that relationship and almost changing their perception about what counselling and therapy is for them to think ‘this can help me, it will really move me forward.’.

“The older generation sometimes think it’s too late, things can’t change. The reality is it’s never too late to know more about yourself.”

Power of language

Stuart added: “I did an English degree, and I have been thinking a lot about the power of language, of suggestion, of words, a kind word, an angry word.

“The use of language I think was important, and having a good listener.

“You start to self-reflect and you walk away and think ‘I am here now with my life’ and you start to see chinks of light.

“I felt myself, bit by bit, starting to cope with living on my own, the loss of a friend and various things.”

Stuart has no hesitation in recommending the services of Sheffield Mind and counselling in general.

“I wouldn’t have considered counselling, even if a friend was recommending it to me,” he said. “But having gone through it I would recommend it.

“If there’s someone out there that’s struggling, you need to start talking to a professional. It really can help.

“With regard to Sheffield Mind, if you get on a waiting list here there are other things you can take part in – people talk about that positively.

“We have Friendly Friday where you get to know each other, and there have been similar strugglers. And that has worked as well.

“Mind just lets you be, in a way. You get to know people. It’s an organic thing.”

It's been good for me

Now Stuart has started volunteering to give something back to the charity.

“I go round with collection buckets at football matches and things,” he said. “They ran a scheme held by Age UK, called a peer mentor.

“I had a little bit of training for that and I felt a bit of self-respect coming back from that. That was a big thing and was part of the curve of coming out slightly, meeting a human being and sharing things and thinking ‘hang on, there are other people with their problems as well.’. 

“This environment, it has been good for me.”

If you have been touched by any of the issues in the article you can contact a BACP counsellor or psychotherapist near your via our directory.