Mental health day

A young mental health sufferer who is looking forward to starting a degree, has praised the assisted homes scheme that helped change her life.

AFTER years of suffering from depression Maria Gamage can finally see a way ahead - and it’s all thanks to an assisted homes scheme in Redbridge.

Maria, 23, of Goodmayes, said her GP recognised her symptoms, but it was hard to get any doctor to listen.

“They put it down to teenage years and hitting puberty, no one would take me seriously,” said Maria.

But when, at the age of 19, she was given a studio flat at Abury House, Aldborough Road North, Newbury Park, her life changed course and she is now looking forward to studying for an Open University degree in mental health nursing.

Maria was speaking at a celebration of World Mental Health Day held at Redbridge Town Hall and took the opportunity to sing the praises of the staff at Abury House, which had been threatened with closure in the council’s cuts drive.

“The staff at Abury House pushed me so much,” said Maria. “If it was not for them I would not be starting university this year.”

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Abury House acting manager Maureen Butler was proud of the help they were able to give Maria.

“I have worked at Abury House for 20 years and seeing someone like Maria improve to the extent she has, is everything that makes this job so rewarding for me,” she said.

“I think things are changing in terms of the public’s perception of mental health, they are definitely improving.”

Others visiting the town hall were concerned that mental illness was much misunderstood.

Carol Clements, of Chadwell Heath, was keen to see what care was offer for her schizophrenic daughter Catherine, but said people did not understand mental illness.

“If you’ve got a broken leg, people give you sympathy. But if it’s something invisible, like mental illness, you get nothing.”