Gabrielle couldn’t be clearer about Ruah’s impact. “Ruah saved my life,” she says simply and powerfully.
“When I met my community worker some years ago now, I wanted to die,” the lively 55-year old explains candidly.
“I couldn’t see any point in living. I thought I was worthless; failed at everything and had no point to my life. I had made a number of self-harm attempts.”
A lifetime of mental illness and multiple traumas including child sexual abuse and, later, the death of a young son had brought Gabrielle to breaking point. A referral to Ruah from her GP brought her back to life.
“My Ruah worker came in and, over a series of meetings, we started to talk about the things that had happened to me and – for the first time in a long time – the kinds of things I wanted to do.”
Gabrielle was, for example, encouraged to revive old dreams to tread the boards. She became a regular in a local amateur theatre group and has even scored roles in a popular television commercial and as an extra in local television dramas.
In a typical Ruah approach, Gabrielle was helped in developing a support network made up of relevant professionals and other workers, giving stability to her mental and physical health.
“I have my confidence back. He taught me that you can experience mental illness and still be a decent person. Working with Ruah has given me an insight that having mental illness doesn’t mean that your life doesn’t have value.
“I’ve learned not only to love others, but to love me. If Ruah did not exist, people like me would be dead.”
Gabrielle’s family – her husband of 33 years, her children and sister – are also literally life savers.
“I still get into a black hole sometimes, but now I have survival techniques,” said Gabrielle. “There are people who love me and care about me. There are people I can ring.
“It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to have mental illness. My life has a value and it is not for others to judge. I never knew any of that before.”