As a person with a mental health condition, Sheffield resident Neel jumped at the opportunity to go along to her local Online Centre when it was recommended by her GP. This one step alone set her on a journey to improving her health and wellbeing and she’s never looked back.
Neel speaks to Good Things Foundation's Service Delivery Manager Peter Nuckley
Neel explains: "I saw a poster in the GP surgery and they asked me if I thought visiting Heeley Development Trust - an Online Centre near to where I live - would benefit me. I decided to give it a go but with my mental illness it's hard to socialise and be amongst people, so I hesitated."
Neel has lived with depression and has had her share of tough times because of it.
She says: "Going to the centre was very difficult for me because I'd isolated myself. I didn't want to mix with anybody."
Neel decided to take the opportunity and even managed to get herself a mobility scooter to help her get around more independently and easily.
She says: "I started off doing the computer classes. Now I'm doing computer, a course about the tablet and I'm learning lots of other things and keeping up with technology. I'm doing Maths too. But I also help out at the centre in other ways."
Not only does Neel work full-time on the reception, her confidence has come on leaps and bounds and she's been helping other attendees at the centre.
Neel explains: "I have a counseling background and I'm keen to help others, so I talk to the learners when they have problems. I just have to help them and do whatever it takes to make them feel better. I find it rewarding because it benefits my mental and physical wellbeing in its entirety.
"I think digital can do so much for people's health and if they could just take the time and have the mental energy to give it a go, I'd tell them to do it. There's such a huge range of tools that you can arm yourself with. It's like a carpenter or plumber uses tools - they're all there for your benefit. I'd say to people if they want to find out more, get on this train because the journey's going to be epic."
Neel admits she's been in some dark places, but Heeley Development Trust has helped her to improve her wellbeing and she's adamant that she doesn't want to go back to those places.
"It's been good for my mental health coming here. If you live on your own, keeping afloat is a lot harder because you become independent and don't want to ask for help or be a burden. I'm not going back to neglecting myself.
"I've worked on myself a lot and with help from Heeley. It's been a long and hard road but now I'm hopeful. My mental illness is a lot better and I'm more stable. I've found a new me and I don't want to go back to where I was before, but if I were to, I'm now armed with more resources and have more friends and more people that I can ask for help and support."
Good Things Foundation is running a three-year programme - Widening Digital Participation - funded by NHS Digital. Widening Digital Participation aims to reduce digital exclusion in the UK, and ensure people have the skills they need to access relevant health information and health services online.