“Life worth living after Probation” – A Service Users Perspective

Claire Houston, Probation Officer, has been supervising a Service User sentenced to a Custodial Sentence of 3 years 6 months and a further 3 years 6 months on Licence. He had weekly supervision due to his chaotic lifestyle with issues centred mainly around drug/alcohol misuse and poor mental health which were triggers for his offending. He experienced periods of homelessness, overdose, paramilitary threats and hospitalisation due to self-harm.

When asked what he thought of how Probation gave him the opportunity to turn his life around, he said:

“Before starting Probation, I was very impulsive, easily led and came across as aggressive at times. I also suffered from poor mental health, depression and extreme anxiety. I masked this by self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, which at times saw me on the wrong side of the law.

To begin with I was dreading Probation because of these problems I had but I started opening up to my Probation Officer and was just honest about my problems and how they affected me. With the help of my Probation Officer we started peeling back the complex layers and my problems and I soon realised how my mental health and self-medicating was causing me to offend. My Probation Officer pointed me in the right direction for rehab, which I completed. I had my medication reviewed and I was encouraged to engage with the Community Mental Health Team and Probation Psychology.

The course, which I did with Probation, lasted six months (Thinking Skills Programme), these 6 months were well spent, and the course was by far the best course I have done. It taught me to be assertive, identify high-risk situations and situations where red flags can come up and tell you it could be heading towards offending behaviour. During the middle of my Probation I came in to housing difficulties and became homeless, this was below rock bottom for me. My mind didn’t know if it was coming or going. This was a very dark time in my life, without the help and support from my Probation Officer I really don’t know where I would be today. I was helped with forms and pointed in the right direction e.g. Housing Office, Extern, Night shelter and Hostels so my Probation Officer knew where I was each night. I can truly say that without the support and guidance from my Probation Officer my life would probably still be like a train wreck.

Today as I write this, I have been in secured property 15 months, my anxiety is under control, I am 7 months sober and my mental health is stable. As a result of this, my offending behaviour has stopped and life is worth living. I can’t thank Probation enough for supporting me and showing me guidance. In the future, I would like to help other people going through the same journey as myself.”

Claire added:

“He engaged in an open and honest way and completed the Thinking Skills Program with success. He also engaged with a variety of supports such as Extern, Addiction Services, Mental Health Team and other community based organisations. He is currently undertaking courses around mental health and hopes to gain funding to complete a counselling course with the view to help people who are experiencing issues similar to him. He now has a more stable lifestyle with better mental health, has stopped taking drugs and alcohol and has secure housing. He is now supervised on a monthly basis with his Licence due to end next year and I am
excited for his future.”