What Mental Health Awareness Week means for Tunbridge Wells Charity MHR
Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 14 – 20 May 2018, and aims to draw attention to the importance of mental health, with one in four experiencing a mental health problem each year, and one in six each week, according to mental health charity, Mind.
Tunbridge Wells benefits from multiple local charities which work with the community to provide support for mental health, including Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource (MHR), who from May 23 will be the Mayor’s chosen ‘Charity of the Year’.
We spoke to the charity to find out about their work, and what Mental Health Awareness Week means for them.
On Wednesday 16th May, MHR will be hosting a Wellbeing Breakfast. To find out more, visit www.twmhr.org.uk.
How long have you been established in Tunbridge Wells?
Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource (MHR) was established in 1993, when a small group of residents came together to try to find a solution to a very clear lack of mental health services in their area. Their concern was that those suffering with mental illness and/or a mental health crisis did not have access to the help and support they needed, at their most vulnerable time... Our aim is to empower people to re-take control of their lives, through person centred support, while also reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.
How big is your team?
MHR is run by engaged, dedicated and passionate Staff, Volunteers and Trustees, with 3 full time members of staff, 12 part time members of staff, 8 Trustees and 11 regular volunteers.
What are the different services you offer?
MHR now supports over 500 people every year across 5 key projects:
'The Hub' - our friendly vibrant wellbeing centre which provides a free service in the centre of Tunbridge Wells for anyone over the age of 17 who face challenges with their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Assert - a specialist advocacy service provided to those detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 + in the community across West Kent and Maidstone, Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley.
Serenity Café - an out of hours service for those at risk of developing a mental health crisis.
Reachout - confidential, self-help support groups around West Kent which focus on wellbeing and recovery. Groups are currently based in Tunbridge Wells, Edenbridge, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Hawkhurst and Cranbrook.
Reachout Youth - café style sessions to help young people share stories, develop coping strategies & make friends. Groups are currently based in Edenbridge and Tunbridge Wells.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for people with mental health problems in today’s world?
We are aware that the borough of Tunbridge Wells has higher rates of neurotic mental health problems in West Kent, with a projected rise of 4.8% by 2020 of common mental illness and 26% increase in severe mental illness by 2020.
In June 2017 we consulted with a sample group of our Hub service users. 79% confirmed that they attend the Hub at least once a week because they could not get the support they need elsewhere locally.
‘Christine’, who was drawn to the Hub 6 months ago because of a cake making class, now attends 2-3 times per week, because, “being at the Hub distracts from what you are going through yourself. There’s no need to be on your own and people here listen and you realise there’s no need to suffer alone.”
In fact, we are proud that our June consultation also revealed that 82% of our Hub service users feel more connected to the community through attending and 26% of our service users have used the Hub for 10 years or more!
How do awareness events like Mental Health Awareness Week help your charity?
Events such as Mental Health Awareness Week and Small Charities week are essential for small charities like us. These events enable us to highlight our important work and in particular, focus on what makes us stand out from national charities. They also promote wellbeing and help to encourage anyone needing support to get in touch with charities, such as ours, because the services can suddenly seem more accessible.
Our work is vital but as a small charity we are reliant on the support of local companies, schools and organisations to promote our work, fundraise on our behalf and become involved in what we do, be that through volunteering or simply following us on social media. Without the support of the local community, charities such as MHR would not be able to run the services that we do.
Has it become easier or harder to get support as awareness grows?
As awareness grows and mental illness is more in the public consciousness, it has become easier to get support for our cause and it becomes clear just how many lives are affected as a result of mental illness.
During the planning of our Wellbeing Breakfast, we have been moved by the overwhelming support of local companies and organisations willing to donate to our event or come along and support us on the day. People often share their own stories of how they or family members have also been affected by mental illness, so awareness events such as these create an important dialogue, as well as a much needed link between our service users and the local community.
What do you think is the most important lesson to take away from Mental Health Awareness Week?
That you don’t have to feel alone. If you have a problem that you would like to share, our door is always open. MHR can offer you a safe space in which to chat, while our timetable of wellbeing activities can help you feel more connected to the community and re-take control of your life.
Interested in getting involved?
You can follow MHR on their social media:
MHR offer training and ‘Understanding Mental health Workshops’, including Understanding Mental Health in the Workplace' workshop on 9th July, 9.30-12.30, Grosvenor & Hilbert Hub, Tunbridge Wells. Cost £30.