Duarte's story

Duarte was born in Portugal and had a normal childhood. He left school at thirteen after primary school as he had difficulties, especially doing exams. He began working in construction at fourteen with his stepdad and was making good money. So, he started living the life, partying, smoking hashish etc. He loved to party!

Duarte arrived in the UK in 2010 after some trouble with the Portuguese police. He lived in Bournemouth with a friend who had invited him to come over to England. After just a week, he had arranged his national insurance number and found a job as a kitchen porter. He continued his parting ways and drank a lot as drink was cheap (£1 per shot). He was out partying with friends one night, when he got drunk and was arrested. He was kept at the station for 24 hours to sober up.

Upon release, he packed up and went to Camberwell to stay with friends. After two weeks, he found a job through his networks, cleaning offices Monday to Friday. Saturdays he went clubbing with friends. He wasn’t drinking so much and was living with his girlfriend. Unfortunately, he lost that job after slapping his boss. After three weeks, he found two other jobs. Cleaning from 5-7 am and the other as a kitchen porter from 9 am to 10 pm. He was making good money and was partying somewhat but not as much as before. After about a year, his relationship broke down and he moved to Barking. He continued working but didn’t go out much until he moved to Brixton after a year.

In Brixton, Duarte started partying hard and drinking. He wasn’t in a relationship and was using drugs (cocaine, pills, cannabis etc.). He was arrested a total of five times, all for drunken behaviour. Around this time, (April 2013) he started to hear voices, which kept getting stronger. He began to get confused and listened to the voices more and more. One day, he started a fight with his friend and flat-mate and assaulted him. The landlord called the police and he was arrested. He was charged with GBH and spent seven months in prison.

In prison, Duarte continued to hear voices and started cutting (self-harm). He was moved to another prison after one month. The other prisoners made fun of him as they didn’t understand what was going on with him. He became more isolated, confused and angry and began fighting with them. He was placed in seclusion when he began talking to himself. Then he was transferred to the prison hospital – Royal Bethnal hospital. He was assessed by the hospital doctor who prescribed medication. He initially refused the medication and was threatened with forced injection. He then agreed to take promethazine after the doctor explained that it would help him to relax since he was still hearing voices. He also had talk therapies and anger management treatment.

After one year in hospital, Duarte was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He was put on a depo injection. The court had decided on a section 3741. He was in jail and hospital for a total of four years and one week. While in hospital, Duarte was put on a special mental health scheme (SRA) to help with rehab and in preparation for returning to the community. He was cleaning places like hospitals etc. under the scheme and was paid £5 per day and given free food. He did this twice per week. Then his case went to tribunal and he was conditionally discharged (no drinking or drug) and sent to Penrose Leonard Road hostel.

Leonard Road was a good fit for Duarte. It is sheltered accommodation for three people, sharing a bathroom and kitchen. He continued his SRA there and after it was closed, he was moved to another Penrose service, (Lakeview Road) which has the same set up.

“Penrose has enabled me to have a fresh start. I am attending ESL lessons and my English has really improved. I have now stopped doing SRA and am working for Penrose, cleaning the hostels five hours per week. I am feeling good, like I got my life back. I now have a girlfriend and am working on becoming more independent. The staff and my social worker help me a lot. They talk to me when I’m down and make suggestions of things I can do to help make my like easier. But I don’t expect the staff to do everything for me. I make my own appointments and do my own cooking, washing and cleaning. My depo has been reduced and I hope to be medication-free one day. I have not had any relapses since my release and have stayed away from drink and drugs. Except, on my birthday in March, I smoked cannabis for a couple of weeks. I felt very relaxed. I only drink for celebrations but do not binge drink anymore.

I am happy and proud of myself. When I have nothing to do and get bored or tired, I used to drink. But now I control myself. The staff are great, especially Michael and Kelly (mama) and I have a good team in hospital. Kelly and I cook together after we choose a dish and do the shopping.

I feel strong like a shark and keep my head up. I’m staying away from bad company but have my people who I know mean me well. I’m positive for the future and giving good vibes and energy to my life. For the first time, I feel like things are going straight and that I can change my life for good.”