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Creating a safe community where we can talk about loss

As October begins, it’s time to start thinking about our next topic of awareness, and this month we’re looking at loss and how we can create a safe, supportive community for people going through some of life’s biggest difficulties.

This subject is particularly relevant after we focused upon the challenges faced by elderly people in September. Thank you so much to everyone who joined us for our Dementia Awareness Workshop or supported the event in some way. Many of the consequences of ageing (such as the death of friends, a deterioration in health, less independence) can lead to feelings of loss.

Loss is a universal experience and affects people of all ages. We see many visitors at the Hub who have faced loss in some form or another, whether it’s loss of health, relationships, a loved one, or financial security, and the list goes on.

We’d particularly like to start a conversation around pregnancy and baby loss this month. The 9th of October marks the beginning of Baby Loss Awareness Week, which is led by Sands, the UK stillbirth and neonatal death charity, in collaboration with over 60 charities in the UK.

Baby Loss Awareness Week

Sands explain that “Baby Loss Awareness Week is an opportunity:

  • for bereaved parents and families across the world to commemorate their babies’ lives
  • to break the silence around pregnancy or baby loss in the UK
  • to ensure all bereaved parents in the UK get the best possible care, wherever they live, when they need it.”

Reflect is a fantastic charity in Harrogate that supports people facing pregnancy loss. Keep your eyes peeled, as we’ll be sharing more about their work later this month.

There are many other support agencies doing great work in our town. The Harrogate Borough Council has put together a really helpful list of the different kinds of local bereavement support available: you can read it over on their website.

It’s ok not to be ok

There are also two other awareness days coming up this month that we’d like to remember. It’s both “World Smile Day” (5th October) and Mental Health Day (10th October), which may seem like a strange combination in the same month! Whilst smiling has been shown to improve mental health and can stimulate happy thoughts, a smiley face can easily become a mask to cover up negative feelings.

We say this a lot, but we want really want people to know … it is ok not to be ok.

This is especially important to say in a place like Harrogate, (sometimes nicknamed “Happygate”) where we are often expected to have an affluent and idyllic lifestyle, making it even harder to be vulnerable about life’s struggles. (We’ve written more about the ‘Happygate façade’ recently over on the Harrogate Girl blog.)

World Smile Day began as a way of encouraging people to do small acts of kindness to make someone smile. Why not join us on the 5th, and do a random act of kindness? We’d love to hear what you get up to! Perhaps you know someone who has recently been bereaved or is going through a tough time, and would appreciate being treated or receiving a card.

If you’re wondering how to support a friend through loss or grief and how you can create a safe space for them to be themselves, it’s worth taking a read of Anna Naylor’s insightful piece on this subject for our blog earlier this year:

“Grief can be a very lonely experience so just having someone to talk to can be cathartic. You don’t need to fix anything- just offering an ear and supportive words, free from judgement, is a huge help. Try not to let the fear of saying the ‘wrong’ thing hold you back from talking about it with your friend or colleague.  Remember, there’s very little you can do to make things worse. They’ll be glad you cared enough to approach it.”

If you’re facing loss yourself and need someone to talk to, or don’t know where to turn, please drop into the Hub for a chat with our trained pastoral carers. We are here to support you and walk alongside you through the dark and difficult times in life.


Please comment and share your thoughts. Do you think Harrogate is a supportive community? And let us know what you get up to on World Smile Day over on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Thank you for joining in the conversation!
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The Hub and Harrogate – Join the conversation – Part 2

In Part 2 of our discussion, we’re going to be looking at some specific unmet needs in our town.

Please comment, share, or get in touch and tell us your thoughts on the needs in the Harrogate district. (You can check out Part 1 of the discussion here.)

Loneliness

Loneliness exists in all ages but predominately affects the elderly and the young people in the district.

In a UK survey of over 1000 GPs, more than three quarters said they were seeing 1-5 lonely people a day.  (Campaign to End Loneliness, 2013).

According to recent research by the Yorkshire Post in partnership with the Campaign to End Loneliness, three quarters of people in Yorkshire and the Humber say that they have suffered with loneliness. ‘Minding the Gaps’ (2014) uncovered high-risk levels of drinking, pornography, mental illness, and loneliness in Harrogate. And the ‘Vital Signs’ report (published by Two Ridings Community Foundation, 2017) also showed that loneliness is one of the prime needs within Harrogate.

Loneliness is in fact the most common reason that people visit the Harrogate Hub. 30% of visits between January and June 2018 were made by people primarily seeking company. They are usually socially isolated, feel overwhelmed by their problems, don’t know where to turn, and/or how to access the specialist services and community groups that would benefit them.  This statistic does not include the many other service-users who visited mainly for another reason, but for whom loneliness is also a daily challenge they face.

Discussion point:  Is there more the churches and community can do to help combat loneliness? For example, is there a need for a co-ordinated buddying/befriending service reaching into people’s homes?

Young People and Mental Health

A large and growing body of research shows that good mental health is essential for individual wellbeing, for a happy, healthy society, and for a prosperous economy. Unfortunately, mental health problems are on the increase, with a rising demand on services and increasing complexity of need.

1:4 young people are struggling in this area. The Local Health Authority’s publication states:

“The population of young people under 19 in Harrogate District is 40,445. There are estimated to be 4645 children and young people between the age of 5 and 19 with a mental disorder. Some 6,800 are estimated to need some support from a professional other than a trained mental health worker, e.g. school nurse, teacher, youth justice worker, whilst 580 are estimated to need support from a specialist CAMHS and a further 25 require inpatient care.”

In total, there appear to be 12,050 young people in the district who have mental ill-health issues.

This is an alarming statistic – over 1:4 (Details from the document – Harrogate and Rural district CCG Transformation Plan for Children and Young People’s Emotional and Mental Health 2015-2020)

Self Harm
  • Of the young people with mental ill-health, 1:4 girls are self-harming and 1:8 boys.
  • In adults 1:4 are suffering from depression, breakdown, sadness etc.
  • There is a 9 month wait time for access to Harrogate district therapeutic services, including Wellspring.
  • It is estimated by mental health professionals that 1 in 4 girls will self-harm before they leave school.
  • Hospital admissions in England are at a 5 year high for girls aged 10-14, showing a 93% increase. (4 May 2015)
  • Self-harm reported to GPs among teenage girls (under the age of 17) in the UK increased by 68% over just three years.
  • Around 13% of young people may try to hurt themselves on purpose at some point between the ages of 11 and 16, but the actual figure could be much higher.
  • In 2014, figures were published suggesting a 70% increase in 10-14 year olds attending A&E for self-harm related reasons over the preceding 2 years.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/18/self-harm-girls-aged-13-to-16-rose-68pc-three-years

https://girlsoutloud.org.uk/self-harming-why/

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/get-information/the-facts/self-harm-statistics

Discussion point: How can the churches be better equipped to work with young people in a preventative capacity and work in partnership with the local health authority and education? Can the churches resource, through the Hub, a system of mentoring young people who are needing support? Do the churches need to be better trained and equipped to reach out to people struggling with mental illness?

Isolation in Families living with Autism

There appears to be a need for church Activities that are “Autism Family Friendly”. Further information is being collated in partnership with Carers’ Resource.

Helen Prince from Carers’ Resource writes:

“The most up-to-date info on the district that I have is from November 2016 – at that time the GP surgeries in Harrogate and Rural District had 617 children (0-18) with an autism diagnosis. There would also be a large number who were suspected to have ASC but not yet diagnosed.

At Carers’ Resource we have nearly 400 families on our database who are caring for a child with autism. All of these families have felt sufficient pressure to reach out and ask for help from us as a charity.

Having a child with autism is extremely isolating. For many families, there have been years of wondering what is wrong, why your parenting doesn’t seem to be right, why everyone else has a child who will join in at the playgroup, play nicely with the other children, try the food, heed warnings etc. For a long time, you wonder what is wrong with you as a parent before you even start the arduous journey of wondering if your child has additional needs and trying to find the right help.

It is much easier not to leave the house than endure the stares and disapproval as your child has a melt-down in the supermarket. Why not just shop online? Santa’s grotto is a sensory nightmare for most autistic children, so you don’t put them through anything like that. Increasingly you find yourself staying at home where you can control the environment, the food, the routine because that is the only way your child seems able to cope.”

Discussion point: What can churches do to support families living with autistic children?

Isolation in the Business Community

Many business people in Harrogate are struggling and I am sure would welcome regular visits from volunteer ‘chaplains’. Volunteer chaplains could operate from the Hub calling into businesses enquiring on employers and employees, asking about their well-being and for any prayer needs.

According to the charity MIND, in any given year, in Britain, one in six workers experience depression, anxiety or stress. It costs the UK economy £26 billion a year. In total, 70 million working days are lost every year due to mental ill health. And 10 million of these working days are directly caused by work-related problems. On average, we spend 10.5 years of our lives at work. Shouldn’t those years be happy and fulfilled? Business chaplains could make a big difference to the individuals affected and to the overall economy of Harrogate.

Discussion point: Are the local churches able to provide volunteers for chaplaincy training with a commitment to providing a service to the business community?

Isolation in the LBGT+ community 

North Yorkshire has no provision for supporting and advising people identifying with gender difference.

A 2010 report by LGBT Youth Scotland (Challenging Homophobia Together)

The report noted that homophobic bullying creates additional physical and mental health risks for those who identify as LGBT. This includes increased rates of substance abuse, lack of adequate sexual health knowledge, physical violence, and isolation. This isolation reaches all areas of life, from the possibility of homelessness when coming out to family members, to a higher rate of mental health issues due to homophobia, and the inability to freely express oneself. Social relationships are built on trust earned through perceived commonality and experiences. Therefore, when LGBT young people and children of LGBT families cannot divulge their identities and home life to peers, their relationships suffer, leading to further social isolation.

Discussion point: How can the local churches and community offer support to the LGBT+ community? The Hub could be a venue for a support network.

Partnership

The Hub is working alongside the district’s civic sector, health providers and 3rd sector providers. These sectors are increasingly showing a desire to work more closely together with Harrogate churches to consider local needs and how they can be addressed locally.

Thank you so much taking the time to read these blogs based on our discussion paper. It is designed to be helpful in shaping our thinking into action. We’d love for you to join in the conversation!

 

Written by Jo-Ann Hughes 

Special thanks to Ella Green (co-worker) and Helen Prince (Carer’s Resource) for help compiling the discussion paper

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The Hub and Harrogate – Join the conversation – Part 1

In our next blog posts, we want to start a conversation about how we can work together to respond to the unmet needs in Harrogate.

These blog posts are based on a discussion paper we have put together. We’re going to be sharing some of our own findings as well as the research of other organisations.

This discussion paper is an attempt to open up the conversation on how best the Christian church and local community can serve our area, enabling everyone in Harrogate to flourish. The needs within the town and district are a cause for general concern and a reason for everyone to join in the discussion on resourcing and meeting the needs of the ‘not so’ minority that impact us all.

Please comment and share your thoughts with us, and do get in touch if you feel passionate about finding solutions to some of the problems we’ve raised in our discussion. In this blog post (part 1), we will introduce the bigger picture and the issues that we see in the lives of people visiting the Hub. Then we will focus in on some specific needs in part 2, which we’ll be publishing in the near future.

Jesus said “This is my command: Love each other.” John 15: 17

Government Policy
CIVIL SOCIETY STRATEGY: BUILDING A FUTURE THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE

This government paper was published in August (2018) and speaks about the importance of working together strategically:

“A healthy, independent and influential civil society is a hallmark of a thriving democracy. Charities and social enterprises – the social sector – are the core of civil society. A strong social sector is a sign of a strong democracy, which offers many ways in which citizens’ views and concerns can be communicated to decision-makers.

The government is keen to work alongside the social sector to build a future in which the sector can adapt and thrive, strengthen public trust, as well as find new ways to resource and deliver their work. The government is determined that charities and social enterprises should be fully confident in their right to speak in public debates.”

Introduction to the Harrogate Hub

‘Minding the Gaps’, a survey of the Harrogate area undertaken by St Mark’s Church in 2014, uncovered many needs in Harrogate, including high-risk levels of drinking, pornography, mental illness, and loneliness.

The Harrogate Hub provides a place of welcome from our centre at 39 Oxford Street. Our team of trained pastoral carers, recruited from Christian Churches in Harrogate district, provide a listening ear and non-judgmental support, befriending and walking along-side those in need. We also provide practical help, such as filling in forms and sign-posting to specialist services, churches, and community groups when relevant. We are here to help anyone regardless of their age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. The Hub is a safe space for people to find support and share the issues they may be facing.

The Harrogate Hub has been welcomed by local charities, churches, businesses, and civic organisations, and we are working alongside them to respond to the unmet needs of Harrogate. Our aim is to facilitate local churches working together with the third and public sector to help mind the gaps in provision and pool resources to serve the most vulnerable people in our community. We have good relationships with different organisations, enabling us to find service-users the best and most relevant support for them. We have sign-posted people to a variety of different support services so far, including IDAS, CAP groups, the Food Bank, and many others.

Over the past 12 months we have been serving our neighbour…

Total Number of Beneficiaries: 164 service-users over 12 months.

Primary Reasons for Visits: Between January and June 2018:
  • 30% of visits were made by people primarily seeking company.
  • 22% of our service-users came to the Hub primarily for support as they navigate relationship and family issues.
  • 19% came in primarily for support due to mental illness.
  • 7% were facing financial difficulties and were in need of signposting.
  • 5% requested spiritual support or guidance.
  • 4% sought advice and help for housing issues.
  • 3% sought support due to (un)employment issues.
  • 10% came to the Hub for other reasons, including grief and loss, assistance with form-filling, and other signposting enquiries.
Issues faced by service-users:
  • Approximately 3% of our service-users have had a history of drug/alcohol abuse and have come out of rehabilitation
  • Over 25% of service-users are struggling with mental health problems
  • 9% of visits in June 2018 related to housing issues, 3% to unemployment and 3% to finance.
  • Approximately 10% of our regular visitors are/have been in an abusive relationship.
Regularity of Support:
  • Many of our beneficiaries come regularly and have a variety of complex needs. In June 2018, for example, 58% of our beneficiaries came into the Hub on a regular basis for on-going support from pastoral carers. (42% were new beneficiaries).
  • Approximately 25% of our service-users have extremely complex needs and severe/chronic mental health problems. We will walk alongside these people for as long as necessary, sometimes this might be for as long as 1 to 2 years.
  • We estimate that about 10% of our service-users require regular support for more than 6 months (this is not including those whose visits are highly intermittent.)
  • Other service-users require only 1-3 visits in order to find the support and signposting they need.
Between January and June 2018:
  • 7% of our service-users required support over the period of 1-2 months.
  • 65% of visitors were first-time visitors, and 35% were return visitors. These return visitors accounted for 280 visits, which is 80% of visits. This demonstrates the great need for long-term support.
  • 12% of our service-users visited the Hub on an intermittent basis, often due to the difficult and chaotic nature of their lives, and have been coming for more than 6 months.
  • We estimate that 10% of our service-users came on a weekly or fortnightly basis, half of whom visited the Hub over a period of more than 3 months.
Outcomes
  • Out of the total of 83 visits in June 2018, 77 (93%) of visit forms record that the beneficiary felt lighter in mood when they left, having received the support they needed. 5 visits recorded the person felt the same as when they came in. (These beneficiaries receive on-going support for complex needs).1 record did not say.
  • 83% of forms recorded a positive answer to the question “Did we help?” (The other 17% did not leave an answer.)
  • In June, we helped 20% of our service-users access support or resources from other agencies. For example, finding housing, helping with forms, signposting.
  • The fact that 80% of visits (January-June 2018) were made by return visitors is a positive indicator. It shows that our service-users feel welcomed into the Hub community and are finding our support beneficial.
  • 6 service-users have become happily engaged in a church of their choosing and have found community there. 2 other service users are currently talking about joining an Alpha course in the Autumn.
Signposting to Christian Church Activities in Harrogate and District – Current Church Provision

The churches across Harrogate engage in the following activities adding approximately £1,000,000 per annum to the borough’s economy.

Christian Church Activities (by type) Weekly sessions across Harrogate churches
Carer and Toddler 16
Coffee Mornings 8
Lunch Groups 10
Adult Activities 26
Youth Groups 28
Family Activities 10
Illness and Disability 10
Debt 3
Hunger 3

 

Questions to explore
  1. Could the churches be more strategic in targeting their resources in supporting the crisis of needs within Harrogate and District?
  2. What can be done to help Harrogate’s Health Authority combat its issues of loneliness, isolation, and mental ill-health?

 

Written by Jo-Ann Hughes, Executive Director, Harrogate Hub

Special thanks to Ella Green (co-worker) and Helen Prince (Carer’s Resource) for help with compiling the discussion paper

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