Thelma’s Caring Story

Image: Compass Carers Group with Stephen Morgan MP outside the Houses of Parliament,

Pictured above: Thelma and Compass Carers Group with Stephen Morgan MP on a visit to the Houses of Parliament.

In 1989, whilst working at The Law Courts, my Dear son Lloyd was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I was desperate for support. I then realised that a fellow worker, Audree Trimmer who also had a son with the mental illness, had started a support group ‘The Fellowship’ under the auspice of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship (now known as Re-think).  This support group was set up with the help of other carers and professionals and was for Service Users (those who suffer the illness aged 18-60) and their Carers (family members and friends). This group still meets twice a year for lunch/music/chats – I am the Chair and Sally Rumfitt (Community Psychiatric Nurse) is the Treasurer. Katy Walsh (The Hive – Portsmouth City Council) is also on the committee and a wonderful supporter of the group.

Two years after The Fellowship started, a support group named Compass was started just for Carers of the Mentally Ill in Portsmouth – professionals and carers (me included) started this group.  We were supported by Adult Social Care and went from strength to strength – also starting a Support Service for Carers, supported by PCC and having offices in various places, ending in what is now the Carers Centre. It was first named ‘Compass Carers Support Service’ and I worked there part-time with another carer, Carol Eaton. As carers of the mentally ill we knew what was important for other carers.

Now the Carers Centre is home to Portsmouth Carers Service – a support service for all unpaid carers not just those caring for the mentally ill.

Years have passed, I worked for quite a time at the Carers Centre. Then as Audree had moved to Canada (her son had died) – I took over the running of Compass Carers Support Group (over 20 years ago) meeting every month non-stop – we have never missed a meeting – even in Covid we met in my huge garden tables set apart!

We now meet monthly at the Carers Centre, every third Thursday of the month at 11am – we have buffet lunch chats and mutual support – I bring information from the Carers Centre to the group.

I also organise respite days out together, like-minded people relaxed in each other’s company.  We visit Wisdom House at Romsey for gentle mediation, gentle craft and lovely refreshments. This beautiful place is run and owned by The Daughters of Wisdom a group of Nuns (in plain clothes) –  but this day is not a religious day.  I have been taking Carers here for many years, since I worked at the Carers Centre. I was lucky to get good funding for this last year – carers need a treat just for themselves to help them with their caring role.  I also organise other respite days out for the group.

I, with other group members, support The Orchards which is a unit at St James’ Psychiatric Hospital for people aged 18-60. At Christmas I appeal to stores and get a wonderful response – I am able to take wonderful gifts for all who are in The Orchards at this time.  Also at Easter I do the same and with the help of carers I take toiletries, clothing and goodies every month.

My son Lloyd died last year – I am still with the group – I understand how sad it can be being a carer and the support and kindness shown to us is good. We have become friends.  I have good support from other carers, Kevin who drives the mini bus we use, Eileen who takes frail carers in her car, Nick our Treasurer, Pat and Mandy who help with refreshments, many people in the group help.

Written by Thelma – July 2023.