Blog

Why awareness days matter…and how you can get involved…

Over recent years, there seems to have been an increasing number of awareness days.

These days generate interest around various issues and charities that may not always receive much attention. This month is one of those months where there are so many awareness days and weeks (focusing on some very important topics) that it is hard to know where to start!

When there’s so much going on, it’s worth asking why we bother having awareness days in the first place.

There can be many reasons, but broadly speaking these awareness days, weeks and months are a positive way of….
  • encouraging conversation. This helps people to feel more comfortable talking about their personal difficulties.
  • encouraging people who are struggling with various issues to seek the relevant support. Isolation can be one of the worst things when we’re facing challenges in our lives. Many visitors to the Hub come here to find a space in community where they can share their burdens and find support.
  • inspiring action. Better conversations mean we can find ways of moving forwards and working together to change our communities.
What we’re doing…

Here at the Hub, we use our events, blog and social media posts to focus on a specific topic of awareness each month.

We want to start conversations around many of the needs within our community that are often unseen. Harrogate can be a hard place to talk about our personal difficulties, because of the town’s reputation as a place of wealth, health, and wellbeing. Please do engage with us on social media and join in the conversation.

We also hope to champion the great work that support services are doing across the district, to which we often signpost our own service-users.

So here’s a quick look at some things going on in our community this month:

Self Care Week

The 12th-18th November marks Self Care Week. This year the theme is ‘choosing self care for life’. The NHS Self Care Forum have lots of useful resources on this subject. They define the term in this way:

Self Care is the actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness.

(Self Care Forum 2018)

North Yorkshire County Council also have some helpful info on their page about how you can look after yourself and your health.

We spoke to some of our volunteers and visitors and asked them for some tips on self care:

  • Try and get enough sleep
  • Mindfulness
  • Healthy diet
  • Allow yourself time to think
  • Do activities that you enjoy or are good at
  • Make some time to relax– you could have a nice hot bath!
  • Get help from support services when you need it
  • Find support systems and people you can trust
  • Participate in exercise
  • Get some fresh air

“Bear in mind that it’s different for everybody” explains one of our pastoral carers.

What do you do to look after your self? Let us know in the comments.

Days of Action Against Domestic Violence

The 16 Days of Action for the elimination of violence against women run from 25th November (White Ribbon Day) to 10th December.  The Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS) are participating in Harrogate by having an information stall at Harrogate District Hospital on Tuesday 27th November.  IDAS will be there, alongside the Police, between 9.30am and 2.30pm and are able to offer advice and information about the services they offer in and around Harrogate.

Feel free to go along or call IDAS on their 7 day a week helpline number 03000 110 110.

You can find out more about the Hub’s partnership with IDAS here.

Carer’s Rights Day

This day takes place on the 30th November. Carer’s Resource are a great Yorkshire charity that provide support for carers. To mark this day, they are running an information session in Harrogate for professionals. It will be an opportunity for professionals to hear about the issues affecting carers from the perspective of parent carers, young carers, and carers managing work and care.

There are many other awareness days this month:
  • Anti-Bullying Week (12th-16th)
  • World Kindness Day (13th)
  • Purple Tuesday (13th) – a campaign to transform the shopping experience of disabled people.
  • World Diabetes Day (14th)
  • Alcohol Awareness Week (19th-25th) We’re heading to Harrogate Alcoholics Anonymous Open Forum Event to find out more about supporting those struggling with alcohol addiction.

Do you know of any others?

Let us know what you’ve been up to this month and what you’ve learnt from these awareness days.

If you are affected by any of the issues discussed, please do drop into the Hub for a chat. We’ll listen to you and help you find the right support for you.
Or if you work for support services in Harrogate and haven’t already been in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Written by Ella Green

Read more

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

Read more

“You’re not remembered by how much money you make but by how many lives you’ve touched” – Introducing Matthew from Radfield Home Care

We’re delighted to introduce you to Matthew Nutting. He’s the Director of Radfield Home Care, a high quality home care service for the people of Harrogate and surrounding areas.

We are very grateful to this great business for becoming one our latest sponsors. Matthew will also be joining us for our next exciting event! We had a chat with him to find out about his work and his heart to care for our community…

How did you first get into the care sector?

I first got involved in the care sector because I wanted to help people. And I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do with my life. A lot of people in the care sector end up there by default. They know they want to help. They know they want to do something practical, but maybe they haven’t been particularly good in academics – I could look after someone but I probably couldn’t write an essay! That’s a skill I’ve had to learn and teach myself throughout the years. But I enjoy helping people and seeing their smiling faces when you do something for them.

No one’s in it to make millions, but you do have an impact on the community. You do have an impact on the people around you and people have said to me “You’re doing something that’s good”, “You’re doing something that’s worthwhile”. I’m a big believer in the idea that you’re not remembered by how much money you make but by how many lives you’ve touched.

Do you think your background as an Occupational Therapist has given you an insight into how we can support people in our community?

Yeah absolutely. So occupational therapy is one of the only dual-trained healthcare professions, so you train in mental health and physical health. It’s very much about holistic therapy for individuals.

The term ‘Occupational Therapy’ can be quite misleading, in that people automatically think that ‘Occupation’ means their job, when it’s actually nothing to do with their job. Occupation is what we do everyday. Occupation is getting yourself dressed in the morning, making yourself lunch, or taking your child to nursery. All of these things are your occupation and they are different for every person.

Occupational therapy is needed when there’s something in your life, whether’s it a social, mental, or physical health problem that prevents you from doing the things that make you you. OT is about looking at how you can support that person to overcome that.

You can never truly understand what people are going through – there’s a big difference between empathy and sympathy.

You shouldn’t try to sympathise with people, you don’t know what’s going on inside or what they’ve experienced. But if you do your best to realise that it is hard for them and that they need help, it gives you a little bit of background.

Why have you chosen to support the Harrogate Hub?

I love the fact that the Hub is about making changes to society, and making changes in the community. At Radfield Home Care we are really focused on being able to change the care industry, and make an impact on the community and the society around us.

We’re really proud to be acquainted with the Living Wage Foundation, because we know that some of the most vulnerable people in society are paid low wages and they are often looking after vulnerable people themselves. Yet they are not being valued for the job they do, which is an incredibly hard job. I think we’re in a really unique position in that we can promote a healthy society and community. I’m really keen on promoting local jobs for local people, to look after local people. If I ever get to the stage where I need care in my life, I would like to know that it’s Brenda from down the street who’s looking after me, someone who knows me and who knows about the community I live in. It’s a great thing to be in a community and to have support from that community.

I’ve also chosen to support the Harrogate Hub, because of its work with churches. The church has always been a big part of my life. I was born into a church and into a Christian family, so that’s always been the normal life for me. I’ve seen the values of community and the value of churches. Church isn’t about just standing in a room and singing hymns and saying prayers. Church is about the way you live your life, the way you hold yourself, the way you treat people and the values you hold.

What issues do you think people face in Harrogate and how do you think this impacts them?

I think in Harrogate there’s a massive misconception.

“Oh Harrogate’s nice…there are no problems in the Dales… it’s all money…” Just because the problems are hidden, doesn’t mean the problems aren’t there.

I think people in various parts of the community can face different kinds of stigma. People easily become lonely and isolated because the transport links aren’t always good. In the communities in the Dales, especially in the older generations, people struggle with mobility and getting on public transport by themselves. They need a bit of a helping hand, especially people with dementia. It’s very easy for them to get left behind and lost within their community, and so they can suddenly find themselves quite isolated.

Some people enjoy retirement, but some people can feel like they’ve lost their role within their community. When someone is diagnosed with dementia, for example, it can become easy for them to feel like they’ve lost their place in society. They become harder to engage with. I think that’s where we’ve got a unique opportunity. Places like the Hub and home care agencies, and the whole of society too, can help support people who are struggling. We know from research in dementia that it’s beneficial for people to have social interaction. We can help them keep in touch with the community, which hugely benefits their wellbeing.

How do you see yourself helping the local community in five years time?

At Radfield Home Care, we’re really keen to be able to establish a sustainable and ethical quality home care service. So in five years time, I hope to be building the business and establishing ourselves. I hope that we will have a reputation for providing good quality home care to those who need it most. We want to be able to work with local charities, churches, employers, businesses, social services, and NHS services, so that in five years we will be embedded into the community.


Do you want to find out more about dementia and how we can support people with it? Join us at the Hub for an engaging workshop run by Matthew Nutting on Tuesday 18th September, 7-9pm. Book your free place here. All donations on the night will go towards the work of the Harrogate Hub.  

 

Written by Amelia Ashbrook

Edited by Ella Green

Read more

Why is bullying still so common in our schools? Looking for solutions for young people in Harrogate…

Following on from our last month’s post on youth loneliness, today’s blog post focuses on a topic that still needs a huge amount of attention brought to it: Bullying. Most commonly defined as “behaviour that intentionally hurts someone else”. Loneliness is a closely linked issue at hand.

Bullying can be manifested in many different forms, whether that be verbal abuse, emotional abuse or physical assault. More recently of course, with the increase in access to social media sites, cyber-bullying has become the more prevalent way of hurting others.

As a student in my final years of secondary education, I have unfortunately been a witness to a fair share of bullying among my peer group and I strongly stand by the fact that this problem needs to be tackled head on.

According to a recent survey, it was found that 45% of young people experience bullying before the age of 18. That’s almost 1 in 2 children. It was also reported that 7 in 10 young people have been victims of cyberbullying. Not only is this deeply troubling, it really highlights the enormity of bullying in today’s society.

There are so many direct effects of both bullying and cyber-bullying, including loneliness. Any form of bullying can make a child feel especially vulnerable and isolated, and they often feel unable to reach out to anyone due to the fear of ‘making it worse’. This isolation can then result in mental health issues like anxiety or depression, with some devastating outcomes, such as self-harm.

It has been found that 30% of young people turn to self-harming as a coping mechanism.

In the saddest of cases, suicide is seen as the only option by these young people, with 10% having attempted it after being bullied.

So, after so much research, after so many articles, why is bullying still so common in our schools?

Despite many schools having a zero-tolerance on bullying, it is still too easy for many bullies to get away with it. The victims are often too afraid to speak out for themselves . Sometimes schools simply aren’t aware of the serious implications for children being bullied. Bullies often find any and every reason to pick on others, whether that’s things such as people’s race, sexuality, gender – or even victims being shyer or more introverted than them.

It’s worth remembering though that more often than not, bullies feel the need to be abusive towards others, because they are struggling themselves. It puts them in a situation of control, when in their personal life, they may not be. They often have their own insecurity issues, leading them to inflict their negativity onto others.

You may be wondering, what are we going to do to help?

At the Hub, we hope to be part of the solution, working alongside other agencies in our area. The Hub is currently in conversation with local youth leaders and agencies to seek practical answers. If you would like to join the discussion, please get in touch at harrogatehub@gmail.com. We are also working with Harrogate youth leaders to trial a new youth project. Over August, we are welcoming young people into the Hub on Monday evenings. We provide pastoral care and a place for those affected by bullying to feel safe and valued. We want young people to know there’s somewhere to turn when they’re struggling at school. At the Hub, we provide a place where they can talk through their problems in confidence.


Are you a young person who is feeling isolated or do you know someone who is? Please drop into the Hub 4-6pm on Mondays in August*. You will find a safe space to be yourself and talk things through.

*except for bank holiday Monday (27th August)

Written by Amelia Ashbrook

Edited by Ella Green

Read more

Journeys at the Harrogate Hub – insights from Jo-Ann, the Director

Sarah’s* Journey

Sarah came to the Hub a year ago. She was very honest about her mental health difficulties and found engaging in social situations extremely challenging. Sarah needed to feel safe. Her diagnosis of her mental disorder is characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to understand reality. Common symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, hearing voices that others do not, reduced social engagement and emotional expression, and a lack of motivation.

Since attending the Hub, Sarah has become more relaxed and has a greater sense of peace. She says she feels valued and accepted, safe and peaceful. Without the Hub Sarah says her life is fraught with loneliness which isolates her with her voices. Sarah has increased motivation and engages well with pastoral carers at the Hub. Sarah is not as confused as she used to be and regularly tells us she is happy and well.

Sarah’s journey is a long one with carers at the Hub. They are walking beside her, enabling her to feel loved, valued and secure. Without this she would be continually filled with anxiety and confusion. Instead she has found compassion, love and a safe space.


Ben* started his journey with the Hub over a year ago.

Ben was signposted to us by his CPN. He arrived one day feeling very subdued and suicidal. Life for Ben is not straightforward. His story is one of loss, betrayal, illness and breakdown. Ben is in his fifties. He lost all real purpose in his life when he became ill and his wife began seeing someone else while continuing to live in the family home. Ben’s story is one of confusion and sorrow as he comes to terms with his loss; the loss of his physical health, his mental illness, and the love of his life abusing his situation. She is verbally aggressive and shows no care for his feelings. Unable to make clear decisions and being too unwell to take any action, Ben has suffered greatly. Each week he has sought strength form the pastoral carers at the Hub.

Over the weeks and months, Ben has begun to understand God’s love for him. He is taking strength from beginning a new journey to a new life, even though the old life is still very present. The Hub and its carers are providing a strength that is gradually enabling Ben to see beyond his current situation. He is realising there is a better future ahead.

We continue to support Ben each week on this journey to wellness. He no longer feels his life is hopeless but is now more hopeful, but remains quite fearful of his future. As he gets stronger he is beginning to accept that he is worth so much more than he thought when he first came to us for help. He no longer feels despair.


William and his wife Louise* have recently moved into the area to be close to family.

Louise has dementia and William called into the Hub to find out what support was available for them in the district. He spoke of how lonely he was and how difficult it was for him to have time to do things and go shopping or do the banking. He was lonely for conversation too. Louise loved being in the company of others and engaging in crafts.

The Hub was able to signpost him to several day centres for people with dementia thanks to the work of Dementia Forward; talk to him about Caring for the Elderly and their fun day’s out; and tell him of a private care provider working in the area who could provide respite when he needed to go out.

William was delighted that there was so much in the district to help him care for Louise. He left feeling both relief and joy. We asked him to call in again for a cuppa and conversation as we would be happy to see them both again.


Some of our journeys are very long as we walk with people trying to rebuild their lives from painful and often very messy beginnings.

We are reminded that Jesus never gives up on us. It cost him all he had to walk life’s pathway with us.

“If your brother asks you for your coat,” Jesus advised, “give him your tunic as well. If you ask God for a fish, would he give you a stone? Go and do likewise.”

So here at the Hub we do. We journey with the lost, the lonely, the broken and marginalised for as long as it takes and we are making a difference.

If after reading these journeys you would like to volunteer to be a pastoral carer at Harrogate Hub, please get in touch with us as we would love to hear from you. We provide training and fellowship as you journey with us.

Email: harrogatehub@gmail.com  Tel: 01423 369393

* names have been changed for confidentiality

 

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

Edited by Ella Green

Read more

Hairdressing, Harrogate lifestyle, and loneliness – our interview with the Lifestyle Lounge

We’re very excited to announce that Harrogate Lifestyle Lounge is one of our first business partners. I had a chat with Louise to find out more about the salon and why they got involved with the work of the Hub…
Tell us a little about yourself…

Hi, I’m Louise, I’m the Salon Manager at Lifestyle Lounge. I’ve worked there since November and I’ve been hairdressing for 14 years this month! I enjoy talking to different people everyday and creating new looks. I like working in Harrogate – it has a very civilised feel! And I like the choice of bars and restaurants to go to after work.

I imagine you hear lots of stories of personal struggles as you talk to customers. What do you think are some of the difficulties facing people in Harrogate?

Yes, once a client has been to you a few times, they definitely open up about their personal life. You become a friend to them and they often ask your opinion on things and vice versa. Some of the main struggles we hear about are relationship and family issues, as well as troubles at work. Compared to other places where I’ve lived the cost of living in Harrogate is high. I’m guessing that puts pressure on people at work to achieve more. There’s definitely a pressure to aspire to an affluent lifestyle.

In the Instagram world we live in, everyone thinks they know what everyone else is doing. We look at their social media and envy people we don’t know or have never met. I think this creates a feeling of loneliness and can be a struggle. It depends on how you perceive loneliness. It isn’t always obvious. You hear of people with millions and millions of friends and yet they still feel very on their own. We sometimes see lonely elderly clients, who might pop in and just want to chat to somebody.

Why did you choose to support the Harrogate Hub?

I wanted to support a local Harrogate charity that focused on issues within Harrogate. I think that what the Hub does and what hairdressing can do for people is quite similar in some ways. We can both help customers simply by having an hour’s chat with them and building their self-esteem. By the end of it, they stand taller and leave with more confidence.

How have you raised funds so far?

We recently re-launched the salon with the new name ‘Lifestyle Lounge’. To celebrate we had a Pamper Night, our first fundraiser for the Harrogate Hub and a chance to showcase what we now do – which is more than just hairdressing, but a whole variety of services. We raised £330 for the Harrogate Hub on the night. We also have some plans for future fundraising – something that involves us getting out and about, and that involves us wearing walking boots or trainers! I don’t know what it is yet, so watch this space!

We’re very grateful to Louise and the Lifestyle Lounge team for all their hard work and we look forward to finding out more about their fundraising adventures!

If you work for or run a local business and would like to find out how your business could get involved, please do get in touch at harrogatehub.marketing@gmail.com. You could fundraise for us, sponsor us, or simply be an ambassador and spread the message about our work. We’re excited to work with people who share our heart to serve and love our community.

 

Interview by Ella Green

 

Read more

Youth Loneliness: what’s really causing it?

Recently, there has been a growing awareness of and political interest in loneliness as a significant social problem.

At the Hub, we want to continue to raise awareness of this issue that affects our whole community. (You can check out our previous blog posts on this important subject here.)

In the past, reports have focused on the social isolation of older age groups, perhaps due to our ageing population. Yet contrary to assumptions about loneliness being a consequence of ageing, it seems that young people are at the epicentre of the crisis. A recent study says that young adults are more likely to feel lonely than older age groups.

The research found that almost 10% of people aged 16 to 24 were “always or often” lonely – the highest proportion of any age group.

(The Office for National Statistics)

So why is this happening? The common conclusion jumped to by the media and politicians alike is that social media is the root of this problem. And thus social platforms like SnapChat and Instagram are vilified, as well as the youth themselves, who can’t seem to drag themselves away from lit-up phone screens. But is this really the main issue? Author and campaigner Natasha Devon MBE suggests that “it’s easier to park every teenage mental health concern with social media – then nobody is to blame.”

The subject of loneliness is sometimes defined as “a discrepancy between what you want in terms of social relationships and what you have.” Social media unfortunately widens the gap between this desire and reality as teens feel the pressure to succeed in every area of life, including friendships. But it’s hard to find the time to focus on school, friendships, extra-curricular activities and family life. Many teenagers feel they are failing to achieve the standards required of them in our busy society. Often at least one of these areas is overlooked in favour of prioritising academic success.

“62-70% of teenagers say it really matters to them what grades they get”. They want to “make their parents proud”, says Natasha Kizzie, an executive director of the National Citizen Service. “They’re far more engaged. They’re highly preoccupied by their academic performance and their future job prospects.”

This means that they spend less time building meaningful and supportive relationships. Social media lowers rates of face-to-face contact, which can harm a child’s communication and social skills. Without a trusted support network, many teenagers may find themselves lost and without guidance when facing personal struggles.

So how are we working to bring about change?

Since the Hub opened in January, we’ve had people of all ages, from 18 to 90, coming through our doors. At the Hub, our pastoral carers provide a listening ear and friendship. Our welcome centre is a safe environment for those feeling isolated to share the challenges of life and find community. We understand that anyone can feel lonely or isolated. And we recognise the damaging impact it can have on both your life and your health.

But now we’d like to reach out further to the isolated youth in our community. The Hub soon hopes to open its doors for an evening a week to provide pastoral care to young people. We want to give love and care to those who are facing challenges at home, struggling with school, or suffering from a severe loss of 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 youth 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.’


What do you think are the causes of youth loneliness? Join the conversation on our twitter, facebook, or instagram page…
Would you, your youth group, or business like to fundraise for our youth project? Please get in touch and we can send you our fundraising pack, and share more about our work with you. Or if you would like to volunteer as a pastoral carer, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Written by Grace Hart

Edited by Ella Green

Read more

“Although we can’t stop grief from happening, we can support each other through it”

If you read our blog post earlier in June, you’ll have heard that our monthly topic of awareness is loss. It’s something which affects many of our visitors at the Hub and comes in many different forms. Today’s blog post is written by guest writer, Anna Naylor, and focuses on grief.  

I was just seventeen when, after a year’s battle with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), my brother died. AML is a blood cancer that affects the production of white blood cells and this case was particularly aggressive.  Its entrance into our lives was sudden and unwelcome. The year of treatment for my brother was riddled with hope when he went into remission. And then disappointment when he relapsed with a brain tumour. The AML entered his central nervous system and we lost him three days before Christmas, a year after initial diagnosis.

The grief that ensued was not a linear process but rather, a fluid experience. When you lose somebody so close to you, a lot changes. There are theories about grief that present it as a process of stages, but for me it wasn’t that straight forward or predictable.

At first, the hardest thing was coming to terms with what had happened. We live our lives watching these kinds of things happening to others and we never think it will happen to us. So when it did happen to me, it almost felt like an out of body experience as if I watching somebody else’s life and not my own. For a long time I felt relatively numb and I found it difficult to articulate and own my grief, which meant I had trouble expressing it. I also found the shift in family dynamic pretty difficult. Becoming an only child overnight was a big adjustment and impacted my relationship with my family.

My difficulty in processing the grief contributed to a general anxiety, which overwhelmed me immediately after my brother’s death. Thankfully, over time, I found the support and courage to explore the painful areas so that I could better understand what was going on for me. Consequently, I was able get help with those things and develop the tools I needed to build resilience to move forward.

Grief changes with time and different things are harder now.

The hardest thing today is not being able to ring my brother up and share life events with him. My husband never knew my brother and when we have children, they’ll be missing an uncle. It seems so cruel that he should be excluded from this chapter of my life and that nobody got a choice. I also sometimes feel afraid of reliving this grief and the thought of anybody else I love getting cancer.

Unfortunately, our western society isn’t well-versed in its understanding and handling of grief. Our ‘hold your cards close’ culture makes it a difficult and awkward topic for some.

However, grief happens to everybody at some point. Although we can’t stop that from happening we can support each other through it. I would start by suggesting that we change the phrase “Let me know if I can help” to “What can I do to help?”. We British folk are often too polite to directly ask for help. This phrasing makes it easier to give specific actions to those asking. It also helps those asking to sound sincere in their offer.

Things people did to support us included a meal rota where friends brought us dinner each night for a while. Practical, everyday things can take a backseat after loss and this is a simple gesture that makes a huge difference. Our community also helped us fundraise for Bloodwise to help others in my brother’s situation, which helped us to feel seen and thought of.

When it comes to supporting a friend/colleague, listening is powerful.

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.

Even though it’s been a long time, I’m still learning how to support my family. Something that I’m learning is that grief looks different for everybody even if you’re in the same family, and that can be quite hard. Taking a step back and asking that question again, ‘what can I do to help?’ seems to be a good direction to go in.

If you’re going through grief, I would say that whilst the grief never goes away, you can get better at living with it. I’ve found that giving myself grace on tough days has been really helpful.

Self-care has been hugely important.

Sometimes that looks like a duvet day and ice cream. But more and more, I’m finding that self-care looks like reading a book, or cooking my favourite meal, and ultimately, equipping myself with the tools I need to handle things. Immediately after my loss, I benefited from a Macmillan counsellor who helped me learn how to label my emotions and explore them in a constructive way. I’ve since found that investing in integrative therapy was really helpful for me on my grief journey. After reflecting and pinpointing specific areas, I was able to work alongside some amazing women who have helped me learn to develop my resilience and EQ in response to the trauma and other unpredicted adversities that may occur. It’s an ongoing process and learning curve.

I have also found my faith to be a key part in finding comfort and strength when things were especially hard. It’s also helped me to see grief and loss in a new way – as an ongoing process – and that alleviates some of my fear and anxiety. There’s nothing quite like close community to encourage you and offer a listening ear.

C. S. Lewis said ‘no one ever told me that grief felt so like fear’.

He is spot on. But life and loss are a little less scary when you have compassionate and supportive people beside you. Whether that comes in the form of family, friends, counsellors, church, or the Hub, keep investing in your relationships. Although isolation sometimes feels easier, vulnerable and real relationships are an invaluable help in times of loss. You’re not alone and things will be alright again.

Written by Anna Naylor

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

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