Zoe's Story I’ll always love seeing the moment a young person’s light brightens after they’ve spent so long in the dark. I’ll never give up on searching for those moments. I’ve always had an interest in people and their mental health. When I was younger an individual close to me struggled with anxiety and depression due to circumstances that had occurred in their life. It made me want to learn more about mental health issues and how I could potentially play my part in helping people struggling with them. Before beginning my career with Llamau, I worked in a secure unit supporting older men and women who were struggling with all manner of problems and mental health disorders. Many of those I worked with had issues with drug and alcohol addiction: some were scarred by the trauma of sexual abuse: others were prison leavers who’d ended up sleeping on the streets, enduring experiences that even the toughest of people would struggle with. It was obvious to me that many of their issues had spiralled out of control because they hadn’t been able to access the support they needed when they were younger. I wanted to try to reach people in their younger years, when they’re still growing into themselves, discovering who they are. I felt like I could help guide their choices and help them go on to lead healthier and happier lives, avoiding a turbulent future of mental health issues and other barriers that I’d seen people plagued by through my previous roles. I initially began my journey with Llamau as a Support Assistant and have since moved into a Support Worker position. I absolutely love my job. It’s hard and challenging at times but it’s worth it to see a young person start to engage with you and respond to the encouragement you’ve given them to change their behaviours. Not long after I started my role, I supported a young girl who had experienced huge amounts of trauma as a child, including sexual abuse. She really struggled to trust anyone and to engage with any support. I remember the day she started to tell me about the things that had happened to her and began to trust me. I honestly believe if she hadn’t come to Llamau when she did, she’d be dead now but instead she’s living happily, expecting her first baby. To be a good Support Worker you have to be very caring and selfless. The young people you’re supporting simply have to come first. I think it helps that I am young myself so I can relate to younger people and not come across like I’m nagging at them. I also have younger siblings so I often end up thinking that a young person I’m supporting could very easily be my own brother or sister. During the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve definitely faced some of our toughest challenges. Some of the young people we’re supporting do not understand the severity of what’s going on so they unintentionally put themselves and others at risk but so far as a team we’ve been able to work together to keep everyone living at the project house safe. With the message being to ‘stay indoors’ we’ve had to come together to ensure the safety of the young people living at the project house as well as considering the impact of lockdown on their mental health. The team and I have spent time cooking, baking and crafting with the young people living here. We’re lucky to have a lovely outdoor space so we’ve enjoyed some gardening whilst getting some much needed fresh air at the same time, which is so important for good mental health. I’ll always love seeing the moment a young person’s light brightens after they’ve spent so long in the dark. I’ll never give up on searching for those moments.