Simon Partridge, who has schizophrenia, has been supported by our Dover service for over 20 years. Here, he describes what’s important to him – from having his own flat and the freedom to indulge in creative pursuits through to debunking common misconceptions about people with mental health needs.

My name is Simon Partridge. I have a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Oxford.

We are all tucked into boxes – in my situation, it is ‘schizophrenic’. When I was very ill, I had a phantom following me. To while away the time, I tried to make sense of it. I have an insight into my mental illness now but I can ‘forget’ my head and just enjoy being myself.

I have spent over two decades being supported by United Response and, for me, it is a dream come true. I am treated as a person - a valued person.

Independent but well supported

I live with my fiancée, Ginny, in a top-floor flat, known as the Eagle’s Nest, above a United Response supported living service. Having this independence is very valuable to us. We lead a very happy life together as a couple, supporting one another, and are very much in love. I still have some support from United Response, however, which is important to me as I am a social animal and I need to communicate and feel respected. I have everything I need: food (Ginny and I love shopping together), warmth, companionship, understanding and a cool environment.

There is wonderful communication between the support team and us, so I have a ‘mental support’ system in place as well as a practical one. I think of the staff as being like in-house psychiatrists, particularly Steve, the manager, who has been most supportive of me. Everyone in my support team reinforces a different side of what is known as the ‘get better zone’, and whatever problems I care to voice are always listened to.

I am still often surprised by the level of support I receive from United Response, especially as I’ve never been ‘in the system’ as it were. In other places I’ve been to your personal life can be ignored, but with United Response I have privacy – my own flat and bedroom. No one laughs at me or attacks me. No one can come in unless I say. I am reminded about medication and appointments, which allows me to pursue my many hobbies.

A rich and active life

I visit the charity shops. I go for tea at the Morrison’s tea-rooms. I manage Mass most Saturdays and feel it is important to inhabit the spiritual dimension. I listen to David Bowie. I write letters, email and poetry. My mind is full of ideas.

One of the items on my busy agenda is the Dover community radio station to which I contribute a regular Poetry Corner programme and occasional reporting. This makes me feel that I am doing something with my knowledge and focuses my mind on my understanding of the poetry world. I am also self-published: you can purchase an e-book of my poetry called ‘Rursus Pinctae’ and some cartoons about ‘Bizzwit The Cat’ on Kindle. I also have my own Simon Partridge YouTube channel, which you can view if you are interested in learning more about who I am.

Ginny is also most artistic: she does original pottery works and has developed a neo-structuralist style of drawing that is rather like Matisse or Miro.

As you can see from this picture, another of my loves is playing chess.

I believe games and role-playing are powerful instruments for coping – whether you’re up or down. Games are, in my opinion, metaphors for life. To this end, I have used the programming language QBasic to identify prime numbers (which I don’t think anyone else has done), as well as design an artificially intelligent game of Noughts and Crosses. I also specialise in geometry using an old-fashioned CAD (computer-aided design) program.

Others’ perceptions of mental health needs

One of the frustrating side effects of my mental health problem is drowsiness, caused in part by the drugs I take to control my illness. I know I need them to silence the voices in my head, but my support workers understand my wish to reduce my reliance on this medication and so are helping me to discuss this with my psychiatrist.

I am growing older and with age comes understanding.

The public haven’t always understood what it is to have a mental health need. I was once out when a man got out of his car, started threatening me and shouted “You should be in a mental hospital”, to which I replied “That’s exactly where I come from”. This foxed him and he drove off. Understanding of mental health seems better these days. Nowadays, you are not mad but ‘mentally challenged’. But I can have a girlfriend and friends. I am just like you.

Simon Partridge was talking to Laura Cook, web and digital communications assistant.

If you have a support need related to mental health, United Response may be able to help. To find out, just fill in our support enquiry form, and a member of our support team will get back to you.