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Creating a safe community where we can talk about loss

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

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

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

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

Baby Loss Awareness Week

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

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

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

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

It’s ok not to be ok

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Loneliness

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

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

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

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

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

Young People and Mental Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isolation in Families living with Autism

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

Helen Prince from Carers’ Resource writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Isolation in the Business Community

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

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

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

Isolation in the LBGT+ community 

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

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

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

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

Partnership

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

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

 

Written by Jo-Ann Hughes 

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

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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

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

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.

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

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

 

(Click on the infographic for local statistics.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to somebody

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

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

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

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

Book a doctor’s appointment

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

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

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

Do your research

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

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

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

https://youngminds.org.uk/

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

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

Exercise

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

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

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

http://rossettsportscentre.co.uk/

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

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

Join a new club or start a new hobby

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

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

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

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

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

Write it down 

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

Look at this mood tracker below:

Mood tracker, mental health, Harrogate, Harrogate Hub

Relax

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

Self-love 

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

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

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

You are awesome.


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

 

Written by Rachel Williams

Edited by Ella Green

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

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

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

So Laura, tell us a bit about your background…

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

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

And what have been you up to more recently?

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

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

Why do you do the work you do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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