By Anna Isaac
“I turn to my bag to make sure that I keep myself safe,” says Jenny Davies*, one of those with mental health problems who has benefited from the Recovery Bag Project.
The project was set up to provide solace and comfort to people experiencing mental health crises by sending them bags with items such as hand cream and hand busying toys such as “tangles” to support positive behavior and offer distraction.
Its founder, Polly Rogers, a self-described “mental health warrior”, explains how her own experiences during recovery led her to set up the scheme. “I would phone the crisis team and attend all my appointments, which were useful, but when I was sat in my moment of distress I had little right there and then to help me. So I made myself a recovery bag.
“I needed a practical kit at the end of my fingertips so as soon as I noticed the intrusive thought I could engage with something to help me ride the wave of that feeling and significantly reduce or remove the risk of self-harm. Very soon, I realized that this was something I want to share to help others struggling in the same way as me.”
Rogers set up a crowdfunding page and, with family and friends, tried to boost funds in a range of ways, from car boots to bake sales.
Davies describes how receiving a bag helped her: “I was in a bad place, battling severe depression, including suicide attempts and self-harm that often required medical attention which I was too afraid to obtain.
“There were various items in my bag, which have been now transferred into a crisis box for when I am in need of support to keep myself safe … mindfulness coloring, positive notes, a letter and notebook about the project as well as other various calming techniques. Thanks to Polly, I was able to take myself out of crisis and call some of the helplines on the list she provided and help myself to get help.”