Life changing health results Western Trust programme

“It’s the best thing I ever did.”

That is how Foyle Springs woman Deirdre O’Doherty feels about the Western Trust’s Condition Management Programme - aprogramme which she says has given her the confidence to get back working and enjoying everyday life after experiencing depression.

Deirdre had been working a 30 hour week as a cook in a local school, as well as juggling being an informal carer to her mum who had dementia.

“It was the norm, I didn’t think it was taking its toll on me. It was just something that I knew I had to do,” says Deirdre. It wasn’t until her mum was diagnosed with cancer and passed away only a year and a half ago that Deirdre hit a brick wall.

“I lost all of my confidence and felt very depressed and had to give up work. Having been unable to work, I met with my Pathway Advisor at the Jobs and Benefits Office who said I would possibly benefit from the Condition Management Programme offered by the Western Trust. I was reluctant at the start as I didn’t know anything about it, but I knew I wasn’t getting any better and thought I really needed to do something proactive.

“I was initially referred to Harry Crossan who focused on improving my mental health. He was brilliant and helped me talk about my problems and process the loss that I had experienced. I had mentioned to Harry that my weight gain was also getting me down and it was then that I was introduced to Exercise Professional, Claire Lightowlers.

“Claire was like my personal trainer. She took me for one to one sessions of Pilates and walking. It was great to have that personal touch, as I didn’t feel the pressure to join a class, and I just wasn’t ready for that step. Claire and I met once a week and she was so encouraging. It really didn’t feel like exercise, but I was feeling all the benefits from it. Not only was I physically fitter but my mind was clearer and I really felt motivated to get out and about again.”

Having now completed the programme, Deirdre says she feels it has provided her with a big boost to her self esteem.

I have got a lot of my confidence back and luckily am now able to work part-time and love it,” she explains.

“I also gained such a love for Pilates from my classes with Claire, that I have now joined a local class. I would encourage anyone who is suitable for the programme to go for it, it’s the best thing I ever did!”

Claire Lightowlers, Western Trust Lead Exercise Professional, explains what the Condition Management Programme is: “The 12 week programme is open to anyone with a health condition, claiming Employment and Support Allowance or Job Seekers’ Allowance. Clients are referred on to the voluntary programme, funded by the Department for Communities, by their Pathway Advisor and an appointment is made with our multi-disciplinary team. The team is made up of mental health professionals, as well as physiotherapist, occupational therapists and exercise professionals. The team caters for a wide variety of clients who have both physical and mental health needs.”

“In my role, I introduce or re-introduce clients to activity. Clients benefit from the one to one appointments and therefore they are not under pressure to interact with a large group of people. I sit down with them and we set out a plan together. I offer clients a wide range of activities to suit their needs and ultimately they can pick which activity they feel is benefitting them the most. It could be anything from pilates, walking or circuit style training. It’s great to see clients like Deirdre benefitting so positively from the programme. Deirdre is a shining example of how one to one guidance and encouragement can motivate people to engage in activity to maintain their physical health and mental well-being.”

The Western Trust is working in partnership with local Councils, community and voluntary organisations and workplaces to encourage people throughout the Trust area to get active during ‘Physical Activity Fortnight’ which runs from June 6-19.

The Trust and lead partners the Public Health Agency, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum and Derg Valley Care Healthy Living Centre have developed the campaign to promote the importance of physical activity for physical and mental health and well-being.

A spokesperson said: “Activities Programmes have been developed for throughout the Western Trust area, listing

lots of free and low cost physical activity opportunities and events throughout Physical Activity Fortnight. Activities have been organised by the lead partners and other community and voluntary sector organisations and workplaces to encourage their communities and staff to get active. There are family friendly events and activities for people new to physicalactivity, older people and people with a disability including walking, cycling, swimming,running, boccia, yoga and tennis. Activities Programmes are available at: http://www.westerntrust.hscni.net/3330.htm

for more information on the programme which Deirdre participated in For more information on the Condition Management Programme visit www.westerntrust.hscni.net/2259.htm, email condition.management@westerntrust.hscni.net or telephone (028)71376911.