Jerry Bass – “I no longer feel useless”

We sat with Jerry and talked about his experience of coming to the Fast Friends group at Youth Focus North East, which meets once a week on a Wednesday evening for two hours. Here is what Jerry told us about his time at Youth Focus North East, and the difference it has made to him.

Why did you start coming to fast friends? What was the issue you faced?

In November last year my friend John invited me to a Day of the Dead event  in Newcastle. I had nothing else to do and I was having a bad day that day so I went with him.

I walked in had some pizza and sat on the settee. My anxieties started peaking so I had to go outside to get cool and calm down. A member of staff came out, started talking to me  to me. They told me and John about the Fast Friends group.

I had been living away from Newcastle and am now back in Gateshead living in a hostel. I had lost touch with my previous friends so had to start afresh and boost my confidence. I was nervous at first about going to the Fast Friends group but I decided that I needed to push myself and went along.

I started talking to people at Fast Friends  and helping them. I started to mingle and talked to the different groups of people that were there. At first I thought there were different groups of people, The gobby ones, the weirdos and the quite sensible ones I seemed to fit in with the weirdos. Now I realise we are  all nutters together and they are brilliant.

What’s changed for you?

I no longer feel useless and I no longer feel that I don’t have  a purpose. I am less depressed it is somewhere where I fit in. The session is not too long and it gives me a break. I can relax with people, fit in with everyone, its great!

I struggle to put all the changes into words. It’s one of the best groups I’ve been to in my life. Other groups have been short term or I quit going after a short time. This group is more stable, the people who go don’t change as much. I feel like I don’t have to chase people here as much because  they also come to me, such as they message me on line .

Fast Friends is a special group. It helps get us more organised as you have to be here for a set time. It’s helped with my mental health, my creativity, it has brought my artistic side out. People are running it for themselves. The workers are not telling us what to do but they help to keep control. I would say the group is run 65% by young people  35% by staff, and altogether with 100% commitment.

What difference has Fast Friends made to you?

I am less sad and more positive. I am more social and have got more friends. I am getting to know people and see people I met at the group outside. This has taken 3-4 months to build up, it doesn’t happen straight away. I think you have to get in, mingle, find a group there where you fit with, then see them outside. I now have people to go out with, to sit and chill with and space to sit and be myself. We now plan little trips somewhere at other times in the week outside of the Fast Friends group

If you could sum up Fast Friends in one word?