A young mum-of-two who was once "too anxious" to leave her house has opened up about her battle with anxiety.
In her early teens, Leanne Jones, 28, from Lark Hill, Clubmoor, began going to counselling as she was struggling with her confidence and often felt "intimidated" or unable to "speak up" in school.
In later years Leanne's feelings started to escalate and she began suffering from panic attacks, chest pains and anxiety, which had a huge impact on her day-to-day life.
Leanne said at one point she wouldn't "cross the front door," didn't know know what to do or where to seek help and said when spending time with her children Sarah, aged five and three-year-old Liam, she sometimes didn't feel "present."
But it wasn't until she sought help three years ago that she saw her mindset and mental health change drastically.
Leanne said: "I went to counselling when I was 14. I hated school and I had no confidence whatsoever.
"I found everyone intimidating and I couldn't speak up.
"I didn't want to get a job because I was scared of people.
"I was having panic attacks, I was having chest pains and I was saying to my family I don’t know what to do or what to do in life.
"I had two young kids and I tried every anti-depressant and nothing was working and talking to Tosh was the last resort for me."
In 2017, Leanne was introduced to Michael Fielding MBE, known as 'Tosh', who is managing director of Flourish & Succeed CIC, a community interest company based in Stockbridge Village.
The group started out as a boxercise class but now incorporates well-being and guidance for women, working with women from all walks of life including those suffering from anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, to bereavement, eating disorders and obesity.
When her confidence began to build, Leanne started to feel comfortable and began going for walks with Tosh, talking about her life and her feelings of anxiety.
Leanne said: "I started about three years ago with Tosh.
"Each week I was opening up a little bit more. It was just having that support and knowing I can do something about it with the support from the right people.
"I felt a relief that it’s ok to be feeling how I was feeling.
"You can be anxious but it’s remembering that it will be better one day. It’s having someone to support you and knowing that there's better times ahead."
As time went on, Leanne started attending the fitness classes, going on mountain walks and sharing her experiences with other members - which began helping them in the process.
Leanne said seeing how her story helped other women encouraged her to take on more responsibility in the group and take a number of courses to continue this further.
She has since completed a number of qualifications such as Family coaching, Level 2 counselling skills, Level 2 mental health problems, First aid and defibrillator awareness, and Drug awareness and Domestic abuse awareness.
Now a director of the group, Leanne continues to help individuals and their families with any struggles they may be facing and takes part in challenges such as climbing Snowdon and Ben Nevis.
Leanne said: "It's been a massive change with family because it has helped me get out with the kids.
"Both my kids are autistic so I’ve been able to do courses to to know how they’re thinking and support them and also have the confidence to help other people."
In August 2019, the Flourish & Succeed Men's Hive group was launched and boosts the health and wellbeing of its members through courses, going for coastal walks and more and has continued to strengthen and receive support from the community.
Afters seeing its success, Leanne has now set up the Flourish & Succeed Women's Group with the purpose to empower women across Knowsley and beyond.
Launching this week, the group will take place every Thursday, 10am-12pm at The Community Pavilion in Stockbridge Village.
The group will offer support in mental health and wellbeing, employment, education training courses, mindfulness, family coaching, mental health awareness, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, debt advice and more.
Leanne said: "My hope is for the women to flourish and succeed and to watch people grow, that's the biggest thing you can get out of that."
Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods Cllr Shelley Powell said: "Now, more than ever, there’s a need for initiatives like this which support mental health in these challenging times.
"It is inspiring to see how Leanne has worked to create this group which will help women improve their mental health and well-being, build confidence and reduce anxiety. I wish the group every success."
Cllr Vanessa Boateng, Stockbridge Ward, said: "I am very glad to see and support the work Leanne and her team are doing to support women with their group Flourish and Succeed.
"My mantra has always been 'be the change you want to see' and this group is doing exactly that in supporting women out of the pressures of life.
"Well done and success in all your endeavours."
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- 12:37, 5 FEB 2020
- UPDATED 09:23, 6 FEB 2020