Blog

Mental Health Awareness Week – Breaking through the ‘Happygate’ facade

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Harrogate has a reputation for being one of the happiest towns in the UK. But people struggle with mental health issues here as much as in other places. It’s really important that we break through the Happygate façade and encourage each other to talk about our mental health.

Mental health in harrogate, Harrogate Hub infographicMental health issues can seem to so much worse when you think that everyone else around you is living the perfect Harrogate life. 

 

(Click on the infographic for local statistics.)

Young or old; extrovert or introvert, we all have mental health and it is important that we all protect it and look after ourselves no matter where we are on our journey in life.

Sometimes our journey doesn’t always take us where planned and we may struggle to cope. And that’s ok.

Mental Health Conditions include depression, seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, bipolar disorder, phobias, eating disorders, and many others. This can lead to self-harm, anger issues or even suicide.

Anyone can suffer from mental health issues and it can stem from a range of things like work, relationships, exam stress, money troubles, bereavement, conflict, and isolation.

There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about if you’re not feeling 100% yourself; the most important thing you can do is to reach out to someone.

If you think you may be suffering from a mental health condition and don’t know where to turn, here are few things you can do:

Talk to somebody

It’s that age-old cliché, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’ But never has an anecdote been truer. You should never go through this alone. Talk about what is on your mind; it doesn’t matter how small it may seem.

Whether that be to a close friend, family member, colleague or teacher. Or come in and see us at the Hub; you’ll be welcomed with a warm smile and a friendly face.

Often people suffering from mental health isolate themselves so if you have noticed someone in your social circle not hanging around with you as often, perhaps they may battling something deeper.

According to Time to Change: “Having a mate in your corner can make all the difference. It could be the difference between missing out on the things you care about to getting the support you need to get better.”

Book a doctor’s appointment

The longer you put off calling your GP, the longer symptoms will persist and you may feel worse over time. A doctor will help you put your mind at rest and direct you where to go next. They won’t judge you.

They might put you on medication or refer you to a counsellor. Don’t worry about booking a doctor’s appointment in work or school time; just focus on looking after yourself.

And if you are feeling too anxious to miss work due to a medical appointment, there are plenty of morning and evening slots available. Go ahead and make that call.

Do your research

The internet is a wonderful resource and might help you come to terms with how you are feeling. Below is a list of some great websites that may help you on your mental health journey; including anxiety exercises and stories from other people who have experienced mental illness:

http://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/Anxiety.asp

https://www.mindmate.org.uk/

https://youngminds.org.uk/

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

Exercise

Not only does exercise, keep you fit and healthy, it is also a great way to relieve stress and forget about the day’s troubles. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins and can also build your confidence. Exercising doesn’t have to involve going to the gym and comparing yourselves to others. We’re so fortunate in Harrogate that there are loads of great sport facilities and groups.

Check out just a few of these places you could go to:

http://www.parkrun.org.uk/harrogate/

http://rossettsportscentre.co.uk/

https://clubspark.lta.org.uk/harrogateracquetsclub

http://www.harrogatezumba.co.uk/

Join a new club or start a new hobby

As well as exercise club and groups, there are loads of other clubs you can join in our town. Or why not start your own group with your friends? Like meeting for a weekly walk or setting up a book club. Having a hobby creates a routine and can give you a new focus for your mind.

Here are some of Harrogate’s activities, clubs and societies:

http://www.harrogate.co.uk/category/see-do/clubs-societies/

http://www.harcvs.org.uk/wheretoturn

At the Hub, we also have leaflets and information about activities within the community and at local churches. Drop in during our open hours to find out more.

Write it down 

Sometimes expressing how you feel aloud can be difficult. Try writing down how you feel. There are loads of great examples of bullet diaries and mood trackers on Pinterest, which are a creative way to organise your day and your mind. Keep a note of you feel and if you find it hard to say how you are to friends, you could also share what you have written with them. Writing or doodling switches you off and focuses your mind in a creative way.

Look at this mood tracker below:

Mood tracker, mental health, Harrogate, Harrogate Hub

Relax

Bubble baths, movie marathons and duvet days. Don’t feel bad about doing absolutely nothing and unwinding. It’s good to do nothing and just forget about any stress you might be under. If you’re struggling with not knowing how to relax, try looking at some breathing exercises or mindfulness tips online.

Self-love 

When you feel low, that’s all you can focus on and you might feel like you’re stuck in a rut. Try looking at some old photos to remind yourself of happier memories or recall things that used to make you feel good, like restarting an old hobby.

Your appearance might start going astray and you might stop caring about what you look like. Maybe book yourself in for hair cut or go for a pamper session. This might help build your confidence and make you feel more like you again.

Remember it’s ok not to feel ok and that your current situation, isn’t your final destination and it will get better.

You are awesome.


Join in the conversation on our Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram or come along to our Quiz Night, where a specialist will be speaking about mental health in Harrogate. 

 

Written by Rachel Williams

Edited by Ella Green

Read more

“There’s more to life than current pressures” – Being a young person in Harrogate

Teenage years. Often labelled as awkward and slightly dysfunctional. You’re treated differently; you’re not quite an adult but you’re definitely not a child anymore. Pressures start with school, revision, homework, exams….

That’s not even to mention relationship issues, underage drinking, peer pressure, parties, puberty, social media and mental health. The list is endless.

Teenagehood? Perhaps it should be renamed teenage-should. Young people are often swamped by a constant instructions of ‘dos and don’ts’ that life throws at them. There’s a need to fit in and it’s hard to know how.

With the use of Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, this ongoing pressure continues outside of the classroom.

A recent enquiry led by MPs and top children’s charities, revealed the addictive nature of social media. One in ten (9%) young people surveyed admitted to logging on after midnight every night and one young person said it was “almost like a drug”. Young people expressed that they feel “judged and inadequate if they didn’t have enough likes or followers.”

The enquiry also noted that young people who use social media a lot of the time are more likely to have ‘low wellbeing and symptoms of anxiety and depression.’

In fact, according to YoungMinds, 1 in 5 young adults and 1 in 10 children (that’s roughly 3 children in every classroom) have a diagnosable mental health disorder.

Rob is a youth leader and a local secondary school teacher from Harrogate. He said:

There is definitely an increase in exam stress and pressure to do well. This pressure often has a negative impact on social development.

And if schoolwork isn’t hard enough, he added: “Outside of the classroom, everything is focussed on phones, especially Snapchat. This has an adverse affect on teenagers’ perceptions on not only themselves but also the world around them.”

In a town like Harrogate, there’s not a lot for young people to do.

They can often get stuck in the ‘routine of life’ of school, homework, tea, social media, bed. Many young people don’t know how to talk about their problems and may isolate themselves or get stuck in a rut.

It is estimated that in the Harrogate and Rural District, there are 4645 children and young people between the age of 5 and 19 with a mental disorder. (Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group, 2015).

Rob sees young people struggling with society’s burdens everyday. He said: “I’d like to tell teenagers to remember that there is more to life than their current pressures and that no one should face issues alone. There’s always someone to talk to and the more we talk about it, the more these issues can be tackled together.”

The Hub soon hopes to open its doors on an evening once a week to provide pastoral care and mentoring support to young people. We want to show love and care to those who are struggling at school, facing challenges at home, or suffering from a severe loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.

 ‘Young people are the hope for the future in the making. They need to be shown that they matter, that they are valued’, says Jo-Ann Hughes, Hub Executive Director. ‘They need positive role models who demonstrate how to develop healthy attitudes and caring relationships. All too common now is the issue of self-harm and anxiety. Our children need to know who to trust, where to turn for healthy advice and reassurance. This is why we would like to open our doors to teenagers for safe mentoring at the Harrogate Hub.’

Could you help us provide support for young people?

We are looking for youth groups who want to give some of their time and creativity to fundraise for the Hub’s work with vulnerable young people. Through partnering with us, local young people will be helping to support their peers. Together we can see lives transformed across the community.

If you would be interested in fundraising for the work of the Harrogate Hub, would like to give on a monthly basis, or have experience in working with young people and would like to volunteer, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and find out about your heart for young people in Harrogate.

And if you have any further thoughts on the kinds of challenges facing teenagers in our local area, please do comment or engage with us on social media. We want to raise awareness of the hidden needs in our town to build a stronger, healthier community, where no one has to suffer in silence.

You can join the discussion on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

Written by Rachel Williams

Edited by Ella Green

Read more

Harrogate Hub Annual Report

You can now read our 2017 Annual Report on the link below. Thank you to everyone who has supported the Hub in its first year of opening!

Harrogate Hub Annual Report 2017

Read more

Overcoming Addiction in Harrogate – Gerson’s Story

This month we’ve been raising awareness of addiction issues.

And we’d love you to join in the conversation, so please do follow us and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. At the Hub, addiction is one of the most common issues that we are coming across in the lives of our visitors, and it can often be related to a variety of other complex issues. Like many of the needs in Harrogate, addiction is a problem that is often unseen, masked by the town’s reputation for being one of the happiest and wealthiest places in the North.

We are here to support people whatever they might be going through and to help them access the relevant and best support for them. This week Hub volunteer and broadcast journalist, Rachel Williams, interviewed local chef, Gerson, to find out his story of addiction.


Meet Gerson. He’s 37 years old, originally from London, now living in Harrogate and working as a chef for Bettys.

Gerson’s life wasn’t always like this. From the age of just 12 years old, he started drinking alcohol and taking drugs. For Gerson, this was just something that became part of him. Something he didn’t realise was happening.

As I waited for Gerson at the entrance of the Valley Gardens, a big booming voice shouted out of a car window “I’m just trying to find a car parking space…”

A few minutes passed.  “Sorry I’m late,” he said as he came towards me and waved, “I was dropping the Horizon lads off.”

Horizons is an integrated drug and alcohol recovery service for North Yorkshire. (You can read about our visit to Horizons here.)

Gerson explains: “Horizon is like a halfway house, people come from rehab and they get the opportunity to learn life skills that enable you to get back into the community and earn a living. I came through the programme, I went to rehab called Teen Challenge due to the drugs and alcohol I was taking. Whilst I was at Teen Challenge, I developed my interest in catering and I found out that Horizon could offer training in professional cookery.”

And that’s what led Gerson to Harrogate.

As we walked to find a bench, we chatted about the Churches we both attend and a mutual friend we both know. I couldn’t believe that the person I was talking to was the same as the man who was struggling and using drugs just a few years ago.

Gerson shared: “It started off in my early teens; I was drinking but it was only social.

I started skiving off school because of the drinking and the drugs; it just became part of me. I was a ‘functioning addict’ because I managed to go to work and hold down jobs. A lot of people wouldn’t even notice I was under the influence.”

Gerson’s usage worsened after the death of his brother in 1998. He said: “I was drinking and consuming to numb the pain. To get me through the pain I dove deeper into it, not realising that the deeper I dove, the more problems it created for me.”

The problem escalated and in 2011 Gerson hit rock bottom.

I asked him what his lowest point was. He took a moment,  “wow” he said, whilst thinking about what to say. “There’s been a few.”

In 2011, I was working with people ‘in the field’, who I thought we were my buddies – not knowing that they were plotting bad against me. The person I was working with actually got me set up and kidnapped. I was held at gunpoint by a group of men. That was my lowest point because I felt so small- smaller than an ant.

“It was like my manhood had been taken away from me. I didn’t trust my family, I didn’t trust my close friends I was suspicious about everybody.”

After this, he felt like there was nowhere to turn and he isolated himself for three months just consuming drugs and drinking. As is the case for a lot of users, the turning point wasn’t immediate.

He said: “It was like 2 years later in 2013 – things had started spiralling out of control and the problem was becoming very obvious.”

In June that year, Gerson started to address the problem.  

Gerson said: “I was at Stockwell Underground Station and somehow my sister, who was talking to me on the phone, knew where I was and found me. I was completely gone. I was so wasted.  She’s 4ft something and I’m quite big compared to her; how she managed to take me like a mile up the road to my mum’s house, I will never know.”

“She got me to my mums and that’s when my family stepped in.”

Gerson’s family put him under house arrest.  Everything that could get locked away was locked away. Gerson described what it was like to go through a detox. He said: “ I was rattling (detoxicating), everything was coming out of my system and it was horrible.”

He was laying down on the sitting room floor, when his elder brother came in and asked “Ok, what is it you want me to do?”

“I need help” Gerson replied.

Gerson said that admitting that he needed help was one of the hardest things.

He said: “For so many years, I kept telling myself I was alright. I saw psychiatrists, was put on antidepressants and other medication, but it never seemed to work.”

If it wasn’t for Gerson’s family sticking by him and intervening, he wouldn’t know where he’d be. It was his brother that told him his problem was spiritual. Gerson said: “When my brother said that I kind of wanted to laugh.”

Gerson’s parents are both Christians and have been for as long as he can remember. When he was growing up, he had to go to church but he explained he turned his back on it. He said: “I’ve always had knowledge of Christ but I’d never accepted him.”

Gerson’s brother introduced him to an outreach worker who was involved with Teen Challenge. They worked together to fill out an application form and he was offered a bed within three weeks. In that time, Gerson stayed at his brother’s house because his family were worried he might have one last ‘blow out’ before 18 months rehabilitation, which he found difficult. And this was how Gerson started to accept Jesus.

He said he thanks his family because if it wasn’t for them taking the steps that they had, he wouldn’t have got here.

He added: “Of course God’s involved in that, but I now know God used my family. The scriptures say that God has created a path for us and he knows where we are going to go and he put the pieces into place.”

Has it been an easy journey? No. Do I get temptations? Yeah, but then I look at what I’ve achieved: I’ve worked at Bettys for a year and half, which has been the longest job I’ve ever held. Everyone there is really happy and supportive.

If Gerson were to give advice to people currently caught up with addiction, it would be to use the passion that they put into getting the drugs and to use that same passion to stay off it. He said: “When you want to get that hit or that drink and you haven’t got the money, you go to any lengths to get it, so why not turn that around and put the passion elsewhere?”

He also added: “There’s a lot of help out there. More help than one actually realises- just pick up the phone”.

Gerson now knows to call his friends from church if ever he feels isolated or alone.

Reflecting on his relationship with drugs, he said: “When you’re involved with drugs, you don’t really care about the consequences, you’re more about the moment, which can be dangerous because you’re only focused on the now. Not for tomorrow, not for the future.

“And that was the life I was living in the past but since moving up here my life has been better, I’m really glad that I made that decision.”

That’s why charities like Horizon and the Harrogate Hub exist. When you feel like you’ve got nobody to turn to, we are here for you.

Just last year, Gerson was nominated for a ‘Good Egg’ award by his employers and he was shortlisted in the top ten. He told me that if someone had said that to him when he was at his lowest point, he would never have believed it. He said moving to Harrogate has changed his life for all the right reasons.

 


If you can relate to Gerson’s story, or perhaps you recognise some of the symptoms of addiction in yourself, please come and see us at Harrogate Hub. We would love to meet you and talk to you, and walk alongside you to get you the support you need.

 

Interview by Rachel Williams
Edited by Ella Green

Read more

“Don’t let your past define your present”: Talking relationships with specialist Laura Brett

This week I had the chance to speak to the lovely Laura, whose been doing all sorts of things in Harrogate over the years. She’s had experience of working with people through various relationship, emotional, and mental health challenges.

I thought I’d glean some of her wisdom, and share it here on the Hub blog as part of our month raising awareness of relationship issues.

So Laura, tell us a bit about your background…

I trained as a midwife in 2013 and I’ve worked in all disciplines – antenatal, delivery suite, postnatal, and I’ve specialised in perinatal* mental health. After training as a midwife, I volunteered for Mercy UK for about 18 months, helping two pregnant women, who were struggling with mental health problems and low self-esteem.

* if like me, you know nothing about midwifery vocab, ‘perinatal’ means ‘relating to the weeks before or after birth’. New word for the day! 

And what have been you up to more recently?

I’ve been doing mental health coaching in schools, teaching young people about emotional wellbeing and how to have good relationships. As a midwife, I’ve seen the effects that negative sexual experiences can have upon people. I encourage young people to think about their choices. Every choice we make has a consequence, and good choices can lead to good consequences. As a midwife, I saw women suffering from all sorts of negative experiences, but sometimes it felt like I was just sticking on plasters. Now that I’m coaching it’s about doing preventative work.

However, throughout all my work, both as a midwife and a coach, I’ve encouraged people that it’s never too late to change how we choose to live our lives. Don’t let your past define your present, because then it will have an impact on your future.

Why do you do the work you do?

I’ve definitely been going on a journey. Sometimes you don’t always know why you’re doing what you’re doing, but then you look back in retrospect and you can see why God has given you the experiences you’ve had. My past experiences with midwifery have helped me with what I’m doing now.

My work has been about loving people, and I’ve always had a heart for women. I set up ‘Sanctuary’, a women’s outreach ministry at my church, St Mark’s, and also ‘Ready Steady Mums’, a postnatal walking group, where mums (and dads) take a walk round the Stray and then head to St Marks for teas and coffees afterwards.

As a midwife, I’ve worked with social services to help women in abusive relationships and helped dysfunctional families build relationships through family group conferences. I want to speak for truth and justice, helping people to get rid of the lies that have been spoken over them, and speaking up for people who can’t speak up for themselves, whether that’s women who have been trafficked, suffered domestic abuse or experienced other trauma. There are some verses in the Bible (Isaiah 61) that are about binding up the broken-hearted and setting the captives free. That’s become a real mantra for me. I want to help people live out their full potential.

What kinds of advice do you give to people about relationships?

Recently, I’ve particularly been giving advice to parents. I’ve got involved with a new project, myLifePool Harrogate. We support the well-being of mothers and fathers through the journey of parenting. Postnatal and prenatal depression is a common issue that affects relationships, and it’s not just mothers who struggle with this.

About 1 in 10 men suffer from postnatal depression, but usually it’s hidden. It’s often the case that the father will suddenly have a meltdown about 3 months after the child’s birth. We want to support parents through struggles like this so that they don’t feel lonely or excluded.

We spend 25% of the time talking about the relationships between the parents. It’s not ‘fluffy’ stuff like some people might think, it’s really important. If the parents’ relationship is good and healthy, everything else falls into place – otherwise it can all come tumbling down. We talk quite a lot about love languages, which is all about how we connect with each other and how we express the value we see in the other person.

With all relationships, I would say that communication is really important, and also finding help and support. And that’s where places like the Harrogate Hub come in. It’s so important to find support when you’re facing challenges in your relationships.


If you’re struggling in any of your relationships at the moment and need someone to talk to, please call in to the Hub.

We’re here to listen and offer non-judgemental support. You will receive kindness and love. We will walk alongside you through your challenges and make sure that you get the support you need.

Read more

Domestic and Sexual Abuse happens in Harrogate – join in the conversation

This month, we’re starting a conversation about domestic abuse and relationship issues. February marks Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness week, beginning today and ending on the 11th February.

Domestic abuse and sexual abuse happens to people you may know or walk past everyday. It happens in Harrogate. It may have happened to you. It’s time to start talking about what is acceptable when it comes to relationships and sexual violence and how the Harrogate Hub can help.

Domestic violence is a type of abuse that can be physical, emotional, mental as well as sexual. Whilst many of us may be celebrating Valentine’s Day with our loved ones this month, there are others in our town whose relationships aren’t all what they seem to be on the outside.

In fact, it is estimated that 150-200 people per month seek support for domestic abuse in Harrogate.

This is where the awareness week comes in.

Single, or in a relationship; or like me, in a happy, loving and respectful relationship, it can be hard to believe that anyone could ever be abusive in a partnership.

Sometimes people might not know it themselves.

As I was scrolling through twitter last week, I saw these tweets from West Yorkshire police, which really got me thinking:

Domestic abuse isn’t always obvious.

It can often start with subtle actions from a partner like text messages or controlling behaviour.  Often those abused don’t notice the signs at first.

These subtle actions can escalate. In some cases, they can escalate so much that for some women there is no escape; 2 women in England and Wales die because of domestic abuse on average each week, according to Homicide Statistics.

It’s not just women who suffer but as seen in the tweet above, 1 in 6 men experience some form of abuse within a relationship.

It’s important to notice the signs. You may feel afraid of your partner or feel like they’re always criticising you. Perhaps you’re too embarrassed to mention these feelings to friends or family.

At the Hub we are here to help those who feel they’ve got nowhere to turn.

We help by listening and offering support, and we can signpost to IDAS, the Independent Domestic Abuse Services.

We can help you through the process of getting in touch with IDAS or other specialist services, and we will continue to offer our support – we won’t withdraw our help once we’ve signposted you. We’ll continue to walk alongside you on your journey for as long as you want.

Speaking about the new Domestic Abuse Awareness Campaign on North Yorkshire Police’s website, Sarah Hill, Director at IDAS said:

“IDAS are delighted to be able to launch a new awareness campaign with the support of the OPCC and NYP.  Over the next 6 months, the campaign will provide a range of information about domestic abuse and about the services available for victims of abuse.

For every person who reports or seeks help because of abuse, four more people do not report or access any support or help at all.  

This campaign will reach out to those people and help them access services and support when they need it.  This will increase reporting, reduce risk and help more people live a life that is free from harm and violence.”

If you or anyone you know in Harrogate show any signs of being a victim of domestic abuse, please get in touch with the Harrogate Hub or IDAS. Or if you are experiencing or have experienced sexual abuse, please don’t stay silent. You can call us during our open hours on 01423 369393  or drop in to our welcome centre on 39 Oxford Street, Mondays-Fridays, 10-12 noon, and Mondays-Thursdays, 2-4pm.

Abusive behaviour is not ok, but it’s definitely ok to talk about it.

Follow the hashtag #itsnotok to read other people’s stories.

———–

Check out this site for more helpful guidance:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm

 

 

Written by Rachel Williams

Edited by Ella Green

Read more

It’s time to talk about loneliness – the modern health crisis

Loneliness is a deeply private affliction, but it’s also a modern public health crisis.

 

Kate Leaver

Following on from our blog post about loneliness at the end of last year, we thought we’d start the New Year with a conversation about loneliness in our town.

Whilst we’ve been thinking about this problem on a local scale, it’s been really encouraging to see that loneliness is now being raised as an issue that needs to be tackled nationwide. This month we saw the appointment of a minister for loneliness. This new development has sparked off a national conversation about the problem. An article in the Guardian, published earlier this week, by journalist Kate Leaver, helpfully discusses the stigma attached to loneliness and the ways in which we can overcome it:

“The very first thing is to identify it. Naming the feeling, saying the words “I’m lonely” out loud, and preferably in the presence of a trusted human being, strips that malevolent emotion of some of its power…Shame clings to loneliness like a pernicious little pilot fish, so it’s best to vanquish it as quickly as possible. It is not shameful to be lonely – it is human and it is natural and it is salvageable.”

This is why we’ve started our own conversation about loneliness in our town. We hope that by talking about this topic, we can help people to realise that they are not alone in their loneliness and empower them to seek support. We’ve been asking the people of Harrogate to tell us what they think causes loneliness. Here are some of the responses:

  • Busyness – we are all so ‘busy doing stuff’ that we often don’t notice those around us who might be feeling lonely.
  • Family breakups or disagreements. And some people don’t have family living nearby.
  • There’s an ageing population in Harrogate, and it can be difficult to engage with neighbours.
  • People don’t want to take time from their own schedules to see how others might be doing, particularly the elderly.
  • Social anxiety
  • Self- isolation due to mental health or other issues

How are we helping?

At the Hub, we have many visitors who come through our doors because they are feeling isolated and are looking for community. We provide a listening ear, friendship, and a safe space to share the challenges of life. We also help people get involved in the life of our community, whether that’s by signposting them to a relevant church or community group, or inviting them to join one of the Hub’s own social activities.

After the success of our Knitted Angels project last year, the Hub is restarting a Knit and Natter group on Monday afternoons to give people the opportunity to make new friends and talk things through with a cuppa and a ball of wool! Although non-knitters are also very much welcomed!

However, we’re aware that many people work during the daytime and will be unable to visit the Hub or other social groups. Harrogate blogger, Stuart, writes that “Loneliness is not just an issue facing the elderly – it crosses all age bands.”

For this reason, we will soon be opening in the evenings, and on the 16th February we’ll be hosting an exciting games night, a free event, particularly aimed at people in their 20s and 30s. Check out the Facebook event page here. There’s very little provided for this age group in Harrogate, so we hope to run events like this on a monthly basis to provide an opportunity for young people to have some fun and meet new friends. Each month, we’ll be inviting someone from our community to share their personal story at the event, whether it’s their experience of loneliness, or their experience of other related issues, such as mental illness, addiction, and loss.

If you’d like to share your story, please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and perhaps feature you in a future blog post or invite you to give a brief talk at one of our events. We all experience loneliness at some point in their lives and we want to help remove the stigma.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of loneliness, why not pop into the Hub, give us a call, or come along to one of our events? We’ll help you find a sense of connectedness again – to yourself, to family, friends, neighbours, and your community.

 

Article links

Read more at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/24/how-do-i-stop-being-lonely-google-autocomplete

 

Written by Ella Green

Read more

Christmas angels fly far and wide!

Our knitted angels have been causing a bit of a stir in Harrogate!

If you haven’t already seen or heard about our knitted angels, then do drop by and have a look at our beautiful window display. You can also take an angel home with you, or you could give one to someone as a present this Christmas.

Our Knit and Natter group, along with other knitters around Harrogate (and beyond!) have knitted 100s of these angels, each with a little message from the Hub, to spread hope and love this Christmas. You can read more about the project here.

Lots of passers-by have been standing and staring at the Hub window! And since we’ve started giving out the angels, we’ve heard all sorts of stories, and met people from all over the place.

We’ve had visitors from:

  • the local area – Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon, Spofforth, Bradford and Leeds
  • Newcastle, Northumberland, Cambridge, Durham, Manchester.
  • Scotland and Wales
  • Germany, Spain, the Netherlands
  • And even New Zealand!!!
People have been taking angels for all sorts of reasons this Christmas.

We’ve heard stories of joy and sadness. One visitor told us they’d lost an angel from their Church knitted nativity scene, and so we provided them with a new one! Another person came in to collect an angel for a relative, who’d recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. They wanted to give them a message of hope and love.

Another visitor wanted to take an angel so they could start a project at their church. And others have come in to take away angels as gifts for their children.

It’s also been wonderful to see people’s generosity. Many visitors have been giving us donations for their angels, which is helping us raise money for our work.

You can watch a video and read an article about our angels project over at the Harrogate Advertiser website. They came to visit us when we first completed our window and have helped us raise awareness of our work.

If you know someone who might be feeling lonely or sad, or struggling in some way this Christmas, why not drop into the Hub and pick up an angel for them? We want everyone in Harrogate to know they are loved and not alone; to know there is somewhere to turn when life becomes a struggle. 

Sending you all Christmas greetings from the Harrogate Hub!

 

Written by Ella Green

Read more

Loneliness: the big health risk and unspoken issue in Harrogate

It’s hard to believe that people could ever feel lonely in England’s ex-happiest place to live.

Unfortunately, it’s a sad truth that often gets forgotten about in Harrogate’s daily hustle-bustle, thriving businesses and stream of tearooms and bars. Our busy social scene can masquerade the worrying reality that there are lots of lonely people in our town.

In fact, three quarters of people in Yorkshire and the Humber say that they have suffered with loneliness, according to recent research by the Yorkshire Post in partnership with the Campaign to End Loneliness.

Here at Harrogate Hub, we aim to combat these issues by reaching out to our community, because no-one in our town should be lonely, isolated or unsupported.

We have people coming through our doors with a whole variety of issues, from people needing help filling in forms to people who are suffering abuse, but by far the biggest need we see is loneliness.

Our friends over at Supporting Older People, based at East Parade’s Community House, share our passion for helping those in need.

Julia Lightfoot, who is Home Visiting and Activities Manger at the 30-year-old charity, said: “There’s a massive loneliness issue in Harrogate because it’s an aging town; a lot of people’s friends and family members have died.

“When people are a unit, like a husband and wife, it’s great… but when one of them passes away, the other is left thinking ‘what do I do now’?

The ‘what do I do now?’ moment is something that almost everybody will go through and will inevitably start to feel lonely.

Julia said that taking the initial step is often the hardest step for people, especially men, who often bottle up how they’re feeling.

At the Harrogate Hub, we’re also seeing younger people suffering from loneliness too.

Since, we opened in January, we’ve had people of all ages, from 18 to 90, coming through our doors.

Caroline Hurren, who is a pastoral carer at the Harrogate Hub, said: “Some people walk in before we’re even officially open and then they stay for the entire time. You wonder how long they’d stay if we didn’t have to close.

Several regulars have said it’s an absolute luxury to have a conversation, not just to be listened to, but to have a laugh as well. We’re not just meeting needs, we’re offering friendship.”

Not only is loneliness an often-overlooked issue, it is classified as a serious health issue.

“Chronic loneliness is cutting lives short, and the problem is growing”, said RCGP chair Professor Stokes- Lampard in her opening speech at the college’s annual conference.

Being lonely is worse for you than obesity and is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

In the speech she gave in Liverpool at the beginning of last month, she called on the four governments of the UK to increase funding for general practice in order to give GPs ‘time to care’.

Health-care professionals are starting to signpost people to the Hub, because we are not time limited. We can provide long-term support, walking alongside people for as long as they need it and welcoming them into community.

Laura Alcock-Ferguson, Executive Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, fully supports the call for GPs needing time to care. She said: “Our recent research with the LSE found that for every £1 spent on tackling loneliness, up to £3 can be saved in health costs – and GPs can play a huge part in identifying the older people who need help. We want all GPs to be able to spot the signs of loneliness, and would encourage GP surgeries – where possible – to link up with local services that tackle loneliness.

“We also need commissioners to fund the early interventions and services that will stop lonely people needing to go see their GPs in the first place. The health and economic benefits for tackling loneliness in older people are clear. Now, we need action.”

One way to help prevent this, according to Supporting Older People, is simple human contact.

Julia said: “It’s having that human voice to break up the monotony of the day. I have people who say all they do is stare at the same four walls every day. Having someone there breaks up their day, gives them a new face and a new aspect.”

The charity has around 70 volunteers. Many of them are matched as home-visitors to go to people’s homes and have a chat with them once a week.

They also host a range of activities from ‘tea and talk’, ‘singing group’ to frequent outings.

Young or old, anyone can feel lonely or isolated and it’s not a nice feeling at all. It can often engulf your life without even realising it; not to mention the impact it has on your health.

If you’re feeling lonely, why not pop in and see us at Harrogate Hub. Likewise, you can contact Supporting Older People.

Both charities are also looking for more volunteers. With the end of the year approaching, maybe you could make it your new year’s resolution to help combat loneliness in our town.

Article links:

Read more at: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/campaigns/new-research-reveals-extent-of-loneliness-and-shows-just-how-much-money-interventions-can-save-1-8763590

http://www.gponline.com/read-professor-helen-stokes-lampards-rcgp-conference-2017-speech-full/article/1447175

https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org

Written by Rachel Williams
Edited by Ella Green

Read more

Listening, laughing and loving at the Harrogate Hub

This is Laurel, “Our ray of sunshine at the Hub”, as Anne describes her. “She has an infectious laugh and she always puts a smile on your face!”

Laurel and Anne are both pastoral carers at the Hub. Every week, Laurel also brings us lovely flowers, which brighten up the place and make it feel like home for our visitors.

I had a chat with Laurel about her experience at the Hub. (And you can check out Anne’s story here.)

How did you get involved in the work of the Hub?

Jo-Ann came to our church and spoke about the Harrogate Hub. I had a heart for this kind of thing. I used to run another ministry, giving out food, furniture, clothes and books. And I wanted to get involved in something similar. I also had previous experience of pastoral care from church.

What did you learn from the pastoral care training course?

So many things stood out, especially the prayer, and learning how we relate to people. I learnt that we show how much we care for people mostly by listening. The course taught me to listen more. When you’re a mum, you sometimes butt in when your children are talking! But it taught me to take note and listen, to assess the situation and to make the person feel at ease.

Why do you think Harrogate needs a Hub?

I think there are a lot of lonely people about in Harrogate. There’s a veneer. People think it’s a rich place, but there’s a lot of poverty here. I see it at the foodbank.

What kinds of needs have you seen since volunteering at the Hub?

There’s a common denominator. There’s a need to be listened to and loved.

What would you say to someone who was considering visiting the Hub?

I would say ‘Come in! It’s warm. It’s cosy. And most of all, we’re here for you.’

 

Interview by Ella Green

Read more