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Active Monitoring brings colour back to Sonia’s life

A colouring book might not seem like an obvious benefit to anyone left devastated by bereavement but, for Sonia Bucsenac, taking up the activity has helped her cope with the loss of her beloved husband.

Tibor, who was originally from Hungary, passed away earlier this year after a long spell of illness. Feeling like she was ‘going downhill fast’, Sonia turned to the Active Monitoring programme – and the impact on her day to day life has been extremely positive.

Active Monitoring, delivered by practitioners from Merthyr and the Valleys Mind via some surgeries in Cwm Taf, helps people experiencing anxiety, stress, mild depression, a lack of confidence, anger or grief. The programme involves five face-to-face sessions of up to 40 minutes with a trained practitioner over eight weeks, with the aim of giving people the tools and strategies to manage their mood.

Sonia and Tibor were married for 53 years before he passed away, with two sons, Mark and Kevin, five grandchildren and also great grandchildren. Sonia, of Glyncoch, Pontypridd, said: “We met in a cafe in Pontypridd and it was love at first sight. Tibor was working in the pit at the time, but he later had his own business as a builder.

“He’d had a bad few years and I nursed him at home; he didn’t go to hospital.

“Even though he’d been ill, I wasn’t really expecting him to pass away when he did. All the family came up one evening and it was as if he’d waited for everyone to be there.”

Sonia, who used to work in a bottling factory and also for South Wales Police, visited her GP in the months following Tibor’s death and was referred to Mind practitioner Sadie Hardwick, who works in the Taf Ely cluster.

Sonia said: “I went downhill fast and everything was getting on top of me, but Sadie was a marvellous woman who really understood me. She advised me to get an adult’s colouring book, which I did, and colouring in the pictures really took my mind off things.

“I still don’t like to go out a lot, as I’m afraid people will ask and it’s difficult to talk about, but I am trying to get out more and my children have really been helping.”

Active Monitoring has helped hundreds of people to look after their mental health since the programme began in Cwm Taf. The programme enables people to change their thoughts and behaviour patterns, with measurements of wellbeing from those taking part in the scheme showing overall improvements in feelings of anxiety, depression and general wellbeing and confidence.

Practitioner Sadie, who works in the Taff Vale and Ashgrove surgeries, explained more about the service. “If people otherwise go for counselling, they get what’s known as a therapeutic hour, which is between 50 minutes and an hour,” she said. “When they come for Active Monitoring, they get an initial session of 15 minutes where we get an idea of what they have been dealing with and they get to find out more about what we do.

“If we think Active Monitoring is going to be appropriate for them, we arrange a 40-minute session where we can have a really good chat about what’s happening. The main pathways are things like anxiety, depression, stress, low self-esteem, grief and loss and managing anger. Sometimes people are dealing with a number of these.

“There is a lot more emphasis on guided self-help and signposting. We teach techniques such as positive coping strategies and becoming more self-aware. We can also point people in the direction of other things in the area that they might not have considered, such as other counselling, mindfulness classes and exercise. Our aim is to raise the possibility of something they might not have tried before.”

Awareness of Active Monitoring is growing, with patients now asking their doctor if they can access the service. “Patients need to see their GP first to get a referral and I have heard a few times that people are now asking for this,” added Sadie. “We have posters on the surgery waiting room walls, and I definitely think people are becoming more aware of the benefits of our service.”

To find out more about Active Monitoring, ask your GP or visit the Mind website.