Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Hitting rock bottom was man's turning point

REFUGE: Mike George, 24, became a temporary resident at the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter Trust for about two months. PHOTO/JOHN BORREN
REFUGE: Mike George, 24, became a temporary resident at the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter Trust for about two months. PHOTO/JOHN BORREN

When Mike George first walked into the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter he was scared and intimidated.

He had just overdosed.

I turned up a mess. But they took me in.
Mike George

The Tauranga crisis assessment team which had taken him to hospital gave him the option of going to the men's shelter, or to the streets.

A sequence of events led the softly spoken 24-year-old to a series of relationship and addiction issues which in turn led to mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

"I had the choice to go back to Hamilton to my family, but I wanted to do things on my own.

"I didn't really know what to do. I was all over the show. I didn't want to go back to my family or be around people."

In January 2015 his then girlfriend found out she was pregnant after the pair had been dating about five months.

"I went to her first scan with her, it was all legit. Twins showed up on the scan but a couple of days later she decided to take off to Australia. I started going downhill and I had an overdose."

Family members tried to support him, telling him to stay strong but he could not stop thinking about what had happened, he said.

Three months later he thought he could fix his issues and make the internal pain go away by getting into another relationship.

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"I had anxiety and depression before we got together in Tauranga and I rushed into it."

Mr George's mental state continued to spin out of control and he overdosed on his anti-depressants.

Admitted to hospital, the crisis assessment team then told him he was allowed to go back to his ex-partner's house where he had been living.

"I thought it was just bad idea and the crisis team put me onto the night shelter. I turned up a mess. But they took me in."

Mr George was unsure about his temporary accommodation when he first arrived.

"I was quite cautious. When I was shown my room with a whole heap of other guys. I was really uncomfortable, I felt unsafe."

After a few weeks at the shelter, he started to settle in. His moods started to stabilise. He started doing chores around the place. He got involved with the garden programme which kept him occupied and from going out drinking, or getting depressed again.

Mr George looked forward to his work. He had purpose, he said.

Mowing the lawn, planting new crops, other gardening and weeding and making a new compost heap helped him manage his depression. It also helped wean himself off his medication.

He has done volunteer work for the Merivale Community Centre, helped with the Welcome Bay Music Festival and continues to volunteer at the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter.

He now leads the gardening programme, has help with overnight supervision and takes on a house parent role for new men who come into the shelter. Eventually, Mr George hopes to complete a certificate in mental health and help others in the community.

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If the crisis assessment team had not taken him to the night shelter the night they did, he would be on the street today, he said.

"I'd be in a bad state. My family wouldn't want to know me. Ever since I have been here my family has given me such good feedback.

Eighteen months ago Mr George had never heard of the night shelter but now he thanks it for putting him on track in his life.

"To being a better person, more motivated and independent."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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