Following an incident in his personal life, Mark Jefferies, 55, suffered an emotional breakdown which resulted in him being signed off work.
He was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and placed on sick leave by his employer.
When his employer later requested a return to duties, his workplace Mental Health First Aider referred him to the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service for further help.
The nationwide service provides nine months of confidential and tailored mental health support – to help employees and apprentices with a mental health condition to stay in or return to work.
For Mark, further support was needed after his 20-year career in the Prison Service took its toll on his mental health.
“I had buried my memories of working there for so long, but then suddenly they all came to the surface, and I was unable to cope.
“Not speaking about my feelings had been instilled in me throughout my upbringing. I’d never opened up and spoken to anyone before – not to family, friends, or specialists, so I was very apprehensive when I was first referred to Maximus.”
He was paired with one of our Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants, Leanne Potts, for tailored support and guidance.
Mark explained: “I was actually very nervous but at my initial meeting, Leanne made me feel immediately relaxed. It didn’t take very long within that first meeting for me to have the confidence to open up and tell her everything. She had a very warm, caring demeanour and made me feel instantly comfortable.
“She was totally focused on my recovery. Her support investigated how I was feeling, what I wanted, my obstacles and triggers – and ways to address these, in order to get back into work.”
Leanne held fortnightly meetings with Mark, online and in-person, for the first six months before they moved to monthly sessions for the following three months.
Talking about the support she provided, Leanne said: “The aim of working with Mark was to help him and his employer to develop a return-to-work programme. I worked with him to develop a support plan, which involved setting goals and clear objectives, in this case a return to work with alternative duties.”
In addition to one-to-one support sessions with Mark, Leanne mediated between Mark and his employer, making the case for a managed move into a less stressful role. With continued support, he was able to make a phased return to full-time work.
The impact of the service left Mark wanting to give back and help other people with their own mental health.
He reflected: “My journey with Leanne inspired me to help people who had gone through a similar experience, so I trained as a Mental Health First Aider at work and joined a local group to raise awareness around mental ill-health at work.
“But I wanted to become even more strategic and help even more people, so I then trained to become a Mental Health First Aid Instructor which involves me training other people to provide mental health support.
“As an instructor, one of the first specialist support services is recommend is Maximus and the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service because I cannot thank them enough for getting me to where I am today.”
It’s been four years since Mark first received support through the service and he is now enjoying a new, fulfilling role and positive outlook on life.
“When I first started my journey with Leanne, I was at rock bottom. But now I’ve come a long way from where I was at the start. If it hadn’t been for Leanne working with me and my manager, I couldn’t have returned to work. I’ve grown so much as a person and I can’t praise what she did strongly enough.”
Talking about Mark’s progress, Leanne added: “It’s great to see how far Mark has come since he left the programme, and it’s fantastic that he’s moved into a new and interesting job – not only working but advocating for mental health with his colleagues.”