As Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May) rapidly approaches, one Yeovil resident has shared how reaching out for help with her mental health condition has enabled her to build coping strategies, and even plan for her future.

Ellie Lynas (27), who suffers with agoraphobia, often felt too anxious to leave her home when she first started working with change coach, David Catton, from employment and health specialist, Pluss.

Over the course of 6 months plus, David worked closely with Ellie to identify her challenges before suggesting that she tried equine therapy at EAQ Manor Farm in Stocklinch, near Ilminster.

He explains, “I knew that equine therapy would allow Ellie to explore her feelings about being outside, without any external pressures, and would give her the freedom to progress in her own time at her own pace.

“It wasn’t very long before we saw the results. When we collected Ellie at the end of her sessions, she had a look of sheer joy on her face and would talk excitedly about her day in the taxi on the way home.

“It was incredible, like we had picked up a completely different person.”

Ellie added: “The therapy and support I have received from David has transformed my life. I could not be more delighted with the progress I have made.

“I am now able to enjoy life so much more and am even attending college, where I am studying to become a barber.”

Despite the commonly held belief that agoraphobia only involves a fear of outside spaces, it is more accurately described as a fear of experiencing feelings of panic while outside or alone.

According to Anxiety UK, up to 20% of the population suffers at any one time with some form of agoraphobic avoidance, with women twice as likely than men to suffer from the condition.

Emma Westcott, Pluss Operations Manager, said:

“Ellie’s story is an excellent example of how we have been able to support hundreds of people who are not in paid employment in Somerset. Everyone we work with has a different set of barriers that often hold them back in life. Not all of them will experience mental health challenges, but many of them do.

“Our change coaches work with them to gain their trust and devise a bespoke programme of support. I would encourage anyone who lives in Somerset who is not in paid employment, to contact us to find out what support might be available to them.”

Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual campaign run by the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness about mental health issues. The theme this year is focusing on anxiety – #ToHelpMyAnxiety – and hoping to increase people’s awareness and understanding. The campaign is also demanding change and improving mental health as a whole and providing an opportunity for those working in the field to showcase their work and progress.

EAQ stands for Equine Assisted Qualifications.

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