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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

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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

 

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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

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“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

 

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“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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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