Mental Health Patient Achieves University Dream

A former mental health patient from Barnsley has praised health care staff for their “profound impact” on his life after their care and support enabled him to achieve a university degree.

Dominic Barrett, 49, is celebrating as, despite his mental health battles which saw him hospitalised for a number of years, he committed to his studies and has achieved a degree in Criminology and Law from the Open University.

He began his degree whilst he was a patient at Cygnet Oaks, a 35-bed hospital on Upper Sheffield Road, Barnsley specialising in high dependency inpatient rehabilitation for men. It is run by Cygnet Health Care,

Dominic, who was admitted to Cygnet Oaks on 31 August 2018, said he couldn’t have envisaged completing a degree when he was first transferred to the service.

“When I initially arrived at Oaks Lodge, it was like walking into the abyss,” he explained. “I am six foot four inches, but I was still scared, it’s the unknown, an alien environment. I was not in control and was on a downward spiral with no goals or future aspirations in life. My thoughts and emotions were all over the place.

“It’s a strange feeling. You can be surrounded by lots of people, but you can still be very lonely inside.”

Alongside his time with a psychologist, Dominic immersed himself in all the activities offered by the Occupational Therapy team, his favourites being walks in the countryside and trips to the seaside.

“I found my psychology exercises extremely hard,” he explained. “From my own experiences, I grew up not trusting people, and especially those in authority. My very experienced Psychologist persevered and eventually managed to chip away at my shutters.”

As he began to recover and learn the tools to help him manage his condition, Dominic turned his attention to his hopes for the future. Realising he had a passion for law, the team at Cygnet Oaks offered their support and he started studying for a BA (Honours) degree in Criminology and Law with the Open University.

His hard work paid off and this month, he learnt he had achieved a second class honours degree.

He said: “I have the deepest gratitude and appreciation for the exceptional care and support that I received from the Oaks team.

“As a student, I faced many challenges and struggles along the way, but with their help, I was able to overcome them and achieve my academic goals.

“The Oaks provided me with a safe and supportive environment where I could receive the necessary treatment and care for my mental health issues. The doctors, nurses, therapists, and other staff members were all highly professional, compassionate, and understanding. They listened to me, understood my needs, and provided me with personalised care that helped me manage my condition effectively.”

Dominic added that the staff team helped him to stay motivated and focused on his studies. The therapy sessions helped him develop coping mechanisms that allowed him to deal with stress and anxiety in a healthy manner and the medication he was prescribed helped him to manage symptoms without affecting academic performance.

He said that, without the hospital’s help, he would not have been able to complete his degree.

“The support that I received gave me the strength and courage to face my challenges head-on and emerge victorious,” he explained.

“To the Oaks team, I want to say thank you for everything you have done for me. Cygnet Oaks has made a profound impact on my life, and I will always be grateful for your care and support.

“That person, who first entered Cygnet Oaks, has a positive outlook on life, is looking forward to a bright future and is embracing the challenges ahead. I will be forever indebted to all the hard work and perseverance of all the staff.”

Timothy Wright, Hospital Manager at Cygnet Oaks, said the entire team was proud of Dominic and his achievements.

He said: “Throughout Cygnet Health Care services we are passionate about empowering our service users to reach their goals and the staff work tirelessly and compassionately to ensure they have the tools to fulfil their ambitions. We put our service users at the heart of all we do and there is no greater sense of pride when we see them live happy, fulfilling and independent lives in the community.

“Our dedicated clinical teams provide a full multi-disciplinary programme that offers service users the opportunities and support they need to stabilise their condition and enter society with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and optimism. We are so happy this has come to fruition with Dominic and wish him all the best for the future.”

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