Simon Cafferty, 31, from Mellor, had been suffering from depression when he attended a training event at a job centre in Blackburn. Here he found out about More Positive Together, a project funded by European Social Fund, designed to help Lancashire residents who are furthest from the employment market lead active lives and improve their employment prospects.
Led by Active Lancashire, the project is delivered by The Princes Trust, West Lancashire Council, Lancaster City Council, social housing providers and other third sector organisations in the county, including Newground, part of Together Housing Group.
Simon said: “My depression started in 2008 when I decided to do sports coaching at University of Central Lancashire. I was supposed to go on a trip during Fresher’s Week to meet people but I had an overwhelming dread that something bad was going to happen. I thought I could get on the coach or go home and so I decided to go home. I just broke down at home and whenever I got in the car to go to uni, I would break down, crying.
“No-one knew what was wrong and after a few months, my doctor said I had depression and it spiralled from there. I had a darkness in my mind and I felt a bad person.
“I got a job for four months but the depression came back. I put a lot of pressure on myself and it all spiralled.
“I guess I have always been anxious as a child whenever I started new things.”
Simon went back to UCLan in 2015 to study sports journalism. Once he had graduated he began to explore a passion which had always been at the back of his mind: magic.
He said: “I have always been fascinated by magic and in particular mentalism. One of my biggest inspirations is Derren Brown, but it is only since further studying the psychology of the mind that I have appreciated how truly great a performer Derren is.
“I tried to set up as a magician but as my depression took over and I was too scared to do it.
“Through that I learnt about mentalism and it fascinated me. I had a really bad month last year and I knew I had to do something.”
Determined to get out of his slump, Simon attended a training event at a job centre where he learned about More Positive Together and was subsequently introduced to Aaron Abbott, a mentor from Newground
Aaron offered one-to-one support, working with Simon to help him to try to overcome his depression and anxiety and to build confidence.
This has included Simon attending counselling sessions and working with a life coach and from there he started to develop his business idea of providing a service as a magician and a mentalist. He has now adapted his ability to read, influence and interpret thoughts and is in the process of setting up his own business, Mind Sleuth
Simon, added: “I see Aaron around once a week and he helps me link to clients and business support. He gives me confidence and has enabled me to show what I can do. It is about giving me experience and helping to improve my confidence.
“When I show people they are impressed and question how I do it. It is all about connecting with people and predicting what card they will choose. I am not a master of deduction but I get a sense of what someone is like and how they answer questions. I can pick up different things from people. It is all about instinct and intuition.”
Following Newground’s support in entertaining guests at its events, Simon hopes to further develop his performance skills by hosting more evenings at bars across Lancashire.
“I am in talks to host an event at Jungle bar in Clitheroe and I would like to use that to raise money for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).
“I want to speak more about mental health and highlight the importance of talking to someone and getting help.
“I was at my lowest point and was taken to the darkest places but I have stepped out of that. I have gone from wanting to end it all and battling demons, to trying to follow my passion. It has been a crazy ride.”
Since its inception in December 2016, More Positive Together engaged with over 1,800 people and provided more than 17,500 hours of mentoring support. This number is expected to rise to 2,250 by the end of the year.
Over 275 candidates have become employed or self-employed, with a further 186 engaged in studying or training to achieve a qualification.