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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

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Baby Loss Awareness Week

As part of our month raising awareness of loss, we want to look at the experience of baby loss suffered by many in our community. If you read our blog last week, you’ll be aware that the 9th of October marks the beginning of Baby Loss Awareness Week, and so today we’re hearing from Tanya Allen, manager at Reflect.

It’s great to know that we can signpost our visitors to Reflect’s fantastic services. They are a local charity providing a free support service in North Yorkshire for anyone facing a Pregnancy Choice and for those struggling after experiencing Pregnancy Loss from any cause. We asked Tanya to share more about Reflect’s work…

Could you tell us about the support you offer at Reflect?

Reflect offers help to anyone facing a pregnancy choice. We offer free pregnancy testing with trained advisors and whatever the result we can help you explore your feelings and options without any pressure. At Reflect, we provide information on parenting, adoption and abortion. We offer post-abortion support for anyone struggling after having a termination.

Reflect also provides care and support to anyone who has experience of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or stillbirth.

A pregnancy loss at any stage of pregnancy or soon after, can leave a woman or man feeling overwhelmed with unanswerable questions and grief.

A sense of isolation and loss are common and may leave you feeling ‘out of step’ with events. Reflect can help work through the emotions that surround the loss in a safe and compassionate environment. We allow time to express pain and disappointment and support for as long as is necessary.

What are you doing for Baby Loss Awareness Week?

Baby Loss Awareness Week is held from the 9th to 15th October and as part of this Reflect is hosting our second ‘light a candle’ vigil at St. Peter’s Church in Harrogate on Tuesday 9th October from 1pm until 2.30pm.

Everyone is welcome to come along and light a candle, write a message and spend as long as they wish remembering a baby lost at any stage of pregnancy or sooner after. There will also be trained advisors ready to listen if you would like to talk.

What would you suggest to someone going through grief, especially the grief of baby loss?  

Grief is normal and is a process of emotional suffering usually caused by the loss (or perceived loss) of someone or something that is important to us. Following pregnancy loss, grief is the release of sadness at the loss of the baby, all that might have been and potentially a bit of themselves. Grief often involves initial shock, then sadness and anger or fear, before moving forward into acceptance. However even months or years after the loss someone can still on occasions be overcome with grief.

Grief is a uniquely personal experience and how you deal with having a baby loss is incredibly personal. I would encourage anyone struggling after pregnancy loss to seek support – to talk to someone and know that it’s ok to seek professional support from someone trained in bereavement support. It is helpful to explore your feelings about the loss and to give yourself permission to grieve. Doing something to remember your baby by can often be helpful. This could include naming your baby, writing a letter or poem, drawing a picture or choosing something to remember them by e.g. a ring or necklace, planting a tree or making a memory box.

What kinds of support do you offer to help people through the experience of loss? 

We offer a structured support programme called ‘The Journey’ to enable someone to come to terms with their loss. The Journey course is a series of around 10 sessions exploring the emotional, physical and spiritual effects of pregnancy loss and has proved to be life-changing for those who have completed the programme at Reflect. We look at the different stages of the grieving process and help to work through all the different emotions that may come up such as anger, sadness, guilt and grief.  We offer the Journey programme one-to-one and for couples.

Losing a baby under any circumstance and at any stage of pregnancy can cause a great deal of suffering for the mother or father, and at Reflect we are here to provide space and time to work through that suffering.  We want to give hope of coming to a place of acceptance and being able to move forward. One client said:

I found it very helpful to have a safe space to talk… [Reflect] has really helped me through the most difficult period of my life in a way that has made me stronger and happier than before.

A loss may have been recent or many years ago. Someone may have experienced one loss or several. All Reflect volunteers are trained in our specific pregnancy loss support and all receive regular, ongoing, supervision & training. Emma, one of our volunteers, described her experience of helping a client “It’s wonderful to see the person change in front of you… no longer overwhelmed by sadness but accepting the miscarriage as part of her life journey”

What advice would you give to someone supporting a friend or family member through loss?

Many of our clients wish that friends and family would be able to talk to them about their loss, to ask them about their experience and to ask how they are. If a baby has been named please do use it. Often people also wish that their friends were normal around them and invite them to events, even if they say no. Also, practical support can be helpful, especially if they have other children. Ask them “What can I do to help?” and ask them again in a few days and weeks’ time.

All Reflect’s services are free and confidential. If you would like any further information or if you would like to make an appointment you can contact us via email on enquiry@reflectharrogate.co.uk, visit our website at www.reflectsupport.co.uk or call us on 01423 206710.

 

lightacandle2018 (1)

Written by Tanya Allen

Edited by Ella Green

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Creating a safe community where we can talk about loss

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

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

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

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

Baby Loss Awareness Week

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

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

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

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

It’s ok not to be ok

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Loneliness

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

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

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

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

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

Young People and Mental Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isolation in Families living with Autism

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

Helen Prince from Carers’ Resource writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Isolation in the Business Community

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

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

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

Isolation in the LBGT+ community 

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

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

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

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

Partnership

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

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

 

Written by Jo-Ann Hughes 

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

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The Hub and Harrogate – Join the conversation – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction to the Harrogate Hub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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“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

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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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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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A day in the life of the Harrogate Hub – find out what happens behind the scenes!

Ever wondered what a day at the Hub looks like?! Well here’s a glimpse behind the scenes….
The day starts at 9am. 

I’m too short to reach the lock on the Hub front door, so I have to clamber up the wall slightly. (I get a few funny looks from passers-by.) Jo-Ann, the Hub Director soon joins me in the office and we begin with prayer to prepare us for the day ahead.

9.30am A day in life, Harrogate Hub, Biscuits

Our pastoral carers start to arrive. Today Gwen arrives first – she’s our biscuit-hero and she’s brought a new batch of biscuits for our visitors to enjoy. This makes me very happy (because I get to enjoy them too!) I recommend coming in to try one of her biscuits (or several!)…She’s become quite famous in Harrogate for her baking talents.

10am

Laughter drifts down the stairs from the middle floor. You can always tell when Lynda and Benny have arrived in the building -they bring a lot of joy with them! They are both pastoral carers and they’ve come to set up for the “Real You” course they’re running.

Our regular visitors arrive soon after for the course. These are a group of women who have faced huge challenges in their lives, and each of them have begun a healing journey at the Hub; some have been coming for a few weeks, and some for months. They’ve joined the course to explore questions of identity, faith and self-worth. It’s been amazing to see them grow in self-esteem and friendship over the weeks and months.

Meanwhile, downstairs in our welcome centre, visitors start to arrive for pastoral care. Gwen, Jo-Ann and I are busy welcoming people through the door and making cups of tea and coffee. There’s a real buzz as people start to engage in lively conversation; people are smiling and starting to open up. Jo-Ann sits on the sofa with a young woman having a heart-to-heart, and on our table, we’re talking about our hobbies, whilst enjoying some free entertainment from a curious toddler who’s taking in all the new sights and sounds.

Some have come to the Hub simply for company and friendship, others have stories of grief, mental illness, abuse, and hardship to share and are in need of a listening ear, and some come wanting to find out what activities are being offered by local community groups and churches. It’s good to see people’s spirits lifting as they receive kindness and attention; it feels like there’s a real sense of hope and warmth in the room. We have 7 visitors in all, one of whom has returned specially to thank us for the way we’ve helped someone in her family.

12.00

It’s time to close for lunch (although I’m not massively hungry due to my biscuit consumption…) Once everyone has left, Gwen, Jo-Ann and I spend a few minutes praying. Some of the stories we hear are really heartbreaking and so our prayer time gives us a chance to lay down any burdens we’re carrying.

Someone knocks on the Hub door even though we’re closed and Jo-Ann has to apologise and ask him to come back at 2pm. We’re in the process of rearranging our pastoral care timetable to ensure that we can help as many people as possible. It’s always hard having to turn people away, but we haven’t yet got enough volunteers to be able to keep the Hub open all day. (If you’d like to become a pastoral carer, please get in touch!)

1pm

After lunch, Jo-Ann heads off for a meeting with the Harrogate Borough Council to discuss how we can bless them as they serve town. It’s an exciting opportunity to find out how we can work together to make sure that no one in our community feels forgotten, hopeless, or isolated.

2pm

At the Hub, we have a slightly quieter afternoon. Carol and Sherry are our pastoral carers for the 2-4pm session. A couple of people have made appointments with them and come in for a confidential conversation in the little room at the back. And one of our regular visitors also comes in for a cuppa and a chat; our volunteers are helping her build her confidence and take steps towards her goals at a time when things are changing in her life.

Whilst Carol and Sherry welcome visitors downstairs, I spend the afternoon in the office to plan a talk about the Hub that I’m giving at a local youth group. I’ll be sharing with them about our new youth project and asking them to join us in fundraising for it. The plan is to provide pastoral care to vulnerable young people on an evening at the Hub. If your youth group is interested in fundraising for the project or if you’d like to become a pastoral carer for the project, we’d love to hear from you.

3pm

We’re visited by one of the staff from Harrogate theatre. They’re putting on a show, ‘100 ways to tie a shoe lace’, which explores memory loss in a light-hearted and real way. It’s great to hear about shows like this, which help tackle issues that can sometimes be stigmatised in our community. Part of my job, as Charity Officer is to help raise awareness of the struggles faced by people in our town.

Harrogate has a ‘Happygate’ façade, which sometimes makes it hard for those who are struggling to seek the support they need. It’s easy to feel like everyone else is leading the perfect, idyllic Harrogate life, and so part of our mission at the Hub is to encourage people in our community that it’s ok to ask for help.

Everyone goes through seasons of great difficulty and we’re here for people whatever challenges they’re facing.

4pm

The Hub closes its doors, and Richard, one of our dedicated volunteers, starts cleaning and tidying up. I have a little chat with Carol and Sherry before they head off.

5pm

A day in the life, Harrogate Hub, open doorI’ve finished my work in the office and Richard has made the Hub look all sparkly, clean and tidy! On my way out, I clamber up the wall again to lock the Hub door (cue more funny looks from passers-by). It’s been a busy day, but a very positive one. It’s so encouraging to see that more people are hearing about the Hub’s services and finding a place of community and hope here.

If you could help us spread the word about the Hub, please drop in and pick up some of our posters or bookmarks. Or if you’re online, have a look at our social media pages, follow us, and share our news with your friends. Together, we can shape a community, where no one has to suffer alone and where everyone feels loved and valued.

twitter.com/thehubHG1   www.instagram.com/theharrogatehub/   www.facebook.com/TheHarrogateHub/

Written by

Ella Green

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