From the "abyss" to degree joy: how Dominic overcame mental health struggles to realise his dream

A FORMER mental health patient from Rotherham praised health care staff for their “profound impact” on his life after their care and support enabled him to achieve a university degree.

A FORMER mental health patient from Rotherham praised health care staff for their “profound impact” on his life after their care and support enabled him to achieve a university degree.

Dominic Barrett (49) is celebrating as, despite his mental health battles which saw him hospitalised for a number of years, he committed to his studies and has passed a degree in criminology and law from the Open University.

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He began his degree whilst he was a patient at Cygnet Oaks, a 35-bed mental health hospital in Barnsley run by Cygnet Health Care.

Dominic, who was admitted to Cygnet Oaks in 2018, said he couldn’t then have envisaged completing a degree.

“When I initially arrived at Oaks Lodge, it was like walking into the abyss”, he said, adding: “I am 6ft 4ins tall but I was still scared - it’s the unknown, an alien environment.

“I was not in control, and was on a downward spiral with no goals or future aspirations in life.

“My thoughts and emotions were all over the place.

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“It’s a strange feeling. You can be surrounded by lots of people, but you can still be very lonely inside.”

Alongside his time with a psychologist, Mr Barrett immersed himself in all the activities offered by the occupational therapy team, his favourites being walks in the countryside, and trips to the seaside.

“I found my psychology exercises extremely hard,” he explained.

“From my own experiences, I grew up not trusting people, and especially those in authority.

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“My very experienced psychologist persevered, and eventually managed to chip away at my shutter.”

As he began to recover and learn the tools to help him manage his condition, Dominic turned his attention to his hopes for the future.

Realising he had a passion for law, the team at Cygnet Oaks offered their support, and he started studying for a BA (Bachelor of Arts).

His hard work paid off, and this month, he learnt he had achieved a second class honours degree.

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Dominic said: “I have the deepest gratitude and appreciation for the exceptional care, and support that I received from the Oaks team.

“As a student, I faced many challenges and struggles along the way, but with their help, I was able to overcome them and achieve my academic goals.

“The Oaks provided me with a safe and supportive environment, where I could receive the necessary treatment and care for my mental health issues. The doctors, nurses, therapists and other staff members were all highly professional, compassionate and understanding.

“They listened to me, understood my needs, and provided me with personalised care that helped me manage my condition effectively.

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“The support that I received gave me the strength and courage to face my challenges head-on, and emerge victorious.”

Hospital manager at Cygnet Oaks, Tony Wright, said his team was proud of Dominic and his achievements.

He said: “We put our service users at the heart of all we do and there is no greater sense of pride when we see them live happy, fulfilling and independent lives in the community.