29 January 2020
A picture of Stourport care home resident turns her life around

A Stourport care home resident has come forward to tell her inspirational story of mental health recovery to mark Time to Talk Day 2020.

With the support of staff, Rita Hardiman – who lives at Sanctuary Care’s Ravenhurst Residential Care Home – has turned her life around from the brink of despair.

The now 74-year-old came to Sanctuary Care in January 2017 unable to walk and suffering from severe depression. Rita said: “I found I could no longer look after myself and was very lonely. After living alone, I had spent Christmas 2016 in a different care home and was accepted at Ravenhurst in the new year.”

Spending her working life as a teacher in a comprehensive school, Rita’s mental health issues began in 1980 when she had a nervous breakdown. Following her recovery, she suffered another period of deep depression in 1992 when her mother passed away.

After retirement, Rita started her own business teaching the piano, but was devastated when a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome in 2012 meant she had to give that up.

Rita said: “Having been very busy, suddenly there was nothing to get up for. My physical ability to walk was severely impaired as I became more and more isolated.

“I remember thinking ‘What’s the point in living?’ The highlight of my life used to be when a lady from Age UK rang me for a weekly chat – how I valued that 10 minutes.”

From then on, Rita entered a very dark place, coming to the point where she attempted suicide.

Rita credits moving into Ravenhurst as the point she began to turn things around and feels her life has been enriched. She said: “Before moving in I was unbearably lonely. The love, kindness and support I was shown started to pull me back from the pit of despair I’d been stuck in. I felt like part of a big family.

“I became very close to some of the staff members who supported me to gain confidence, I was encouraged and valued for the person I was. I wasn’t clapped out and ready for the rubbish heap, but was in fact beginning a totally new chapter in my life, far better than I’d ever experienced before.”

One of the team that Rita has formed a special connection with is activities coordinator Dannii Dunn. Rita really values their friendship: “Dannii has been invaluable for me and my mental health. Occasionally I’ll take a dip again for a short while, and Dannii always encourages me to talk about it so together we can find a way forward.

“Her work load is heavy but she’s always got time for us residents.”

Dannii agrees wholeheartedly. She added: “Rita is a very special person. Despite going through some traumatic experiences, she has really come out the other side and knows how important it is, for her, to talk about how she’s feeling.”

Today, Rita feels she has truly blossomed and is looking forward to her future. She said: “After living at Ravenhurst for three years, I’m nothing like the person I’ve been for basically my whole life, and certainly not the wreck of 2016. When I fall down and say ‘I can’t’, there’s someone there to pick me up and firmly say, ‘you can’. I’m truly living a wonderful life.

“When it comes to mental health, talking is absolutely vital, otherwise the problem will fester inside until it becomes a serious situation. Releasing your thoughts to someone you trust is so cathartic.”

Time to Talk Day, taking place this year on Thursday 6 February, is led by social movement Time to Change. The day’s aim is to encourage people to be more open about mental health and eradicate any stigma.