Social Prescribing and Listen & Connect Support – Gemma’s Story

Gemma receives mental health support from her GP and Birmingham Healthy Minds, an NHS psychological therapies service for people with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Until recently, Gemma had been unable to leave the house for two years. She explained that she would have a panic attack, “just answering the door to someone and it’s not like a mild panic attack, it’s all over body shaking. I couldn’t get to the end of the drive without having a panic attack, so I just stayed in the house”.

Whilst at a GP appointment to review her medication, Gemma asked whether there were any other mental health support services she could access. The Doctor connected her with Lorna, one of our Social Prescribing Link Workers, who carried out a triage to find out more about Gemma’s needs and interests. Lorna also referred Gemma to speak to Mark, a member of our Listen & Connect telephone befriending team.

Listen & Connect provides a listening ear and friendly space for a chat, as well as connecting participants with advice and opportunities to be socially and physically active. Gemma and Mark have been chatting on the phone once a week. She explained,

“He talks and I talk. It makes me laugh. He’s got such a great sense of humour and just listens to what I’ve got to say, and if there’s anything he can do to support me, he does his best to help. We’ve we had a phone call this morning and I couldn’t stop laughing”.

Mark suggested that Gemma should join our Listen & Lunch sessions at Small Heath Church, where participants meet up to spend time with others and enjoy a freshly cooked hot meal from our community cafe.

When Gemma attended the Listen & Lunch, it was the first time she had left the house on her own in two years. Although she had a panic attack getting to the end of her drive, she said she really enjoyed being at the session and now attends every other week. She explained,

“You know, it’s weirdly brilliant. It’s sitting talking to people that are dealing with similar issues. I had a chat, you can make things and I just I find it brilliant. It’s the only thing I can say, it’s brilliant”.

Gemma said that the support from Listen & Connect helped her feel ready to step back out. “Talking to Mark and him pushing me to get out was the best thing. Well, because I literally couldn’t, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to do it, I just couldn’t do it”.

Since joining the Listen & Lunch sessions, Gemma feels more confident about leaving the house. She explained,

“Now I can get to the end of the drive without having a panic attack going out on my own. I’m able to go and pick my kids up from school, which I do every day now. Before, I didn’t do it and I really, really missed that”.

Gemma has noticed a big difference in how she feels and her day-to-day routine. She said,

“I feel better in myself. It’s hard to describe, before I wouldn’t say I was suicidal, but I’d have thoughts, that you know, I was useless, and everybody would be better off without me. And I’m slowly getting back to how I was before”.

Gemma’s children have noticed a change in her too. She said that when she was unwell “I would basically be in bed, or I’d sit on the settee. I wouldn’t move. I didn’t smile, didn’t laugh. Before that, the house was noisy because it was all laughing and joking, and it just went really quiet. Now, it’s slowly getting back to how it was before”.

As well as attending the Listen & Lunch sessions, Gemma is hoping to attend one of our walking groups soon. She hopes this will help her feel healthier and is looking forward to getting back into walking everywhere, like she used to.

We have a range of support groups and activity
sessions which patients can access, such as walking groups, growing activities,
and communal eating. To find out more about our Social Prescribing offer, visit

*Social Prescribing connects people with social and physical opportunities within their communities, which support their wellbeing. The Active Wellbeing Society organise a range of activities and groups that we can connect patients with, including walk and talks, growing and cycling.

Nina Conway
Author: Nina Conway