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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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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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“Grief comes in many guises” – Living through loss

This month our topic of awareness is loss. Please feel free to join in the conversation on social media. We’re going to be talking about how we can support each other through heartbreaking times. 

Grief comes in many guises. It can seep into our lives like a mist that gradually burns away the light or it can drop onto us wiping out our ability to make any sense.

Why…? How…? What…? We ask ourselves and others questions that bring us no comfort, no release. None of us are immune and how we find peace and reconciliation is a true test of our essence of being.

I recall a two-year period in my life where my losses were many. One tumbled after another. Grief seared into my heart and soul like white heat as my successful career was ended, my lifestyle interrupted, my status and reputation taken away, my friends left me, my health was shredded by an auto-immune disease and my home sold. I lived for quite a while in anger, disbelief and despair. Pain filled me emotionally and physically. I thought it would never end.

So much loss in such a short timespan undid me; everything I thought I was and everything I had built lay broken!

If I was to survive such devastation I needed to reach out and find the Well of Life. Only the Life Giver himself could hold me in his hands, breathe a new spirit into me and re-shape this broken pot of clay. Thankfully, I found new friendships that wrapped around me giving me room to grieve, holding me in their strength until I began to smile again and feel a renewed spirit within me.


At the Hub, we see many people who have gradually fallen into a mist that shrouds them.

They are unable to see the brightness of day and the colours of joy. They are feeling robbed of energy and zeal for living. They are bound by sadness and existing on emptiness. In essence some of the people we see are experiencing a hopelessness from loss and loneliness.

Some people come to the Hub for company and a cuppa. They seek eyes that shine in their direction and ears attending to their voices. They seek a supporting smile and comforting noises that say “I understand” and “it’s okay to feel like you do”.

A wife’s memory fading with dementia or Alzheimer’s leads one man to seek the company of friends at the Hub. He takes a short break from caring, to engage in lively conversation.

The death of a close friend led someone into the comforting, confidential conversation of a Hub pastoral carer.

The oncoming loss of her home brought despair to a woman seeking help and intervention so that her family did not suffer.

Frequently, we are visited by people who have lost their livelihood, lost relationships, lost their health. At their lowest level, they reach out to the Hub for a gentle hand of friendship.

Life can be renewed!

Reaching out to be welcomed as you are and comforted by those who know how you feel will bring you back into the light and enable you to see colour once again. I promise, because I know!

Written by

Jo-Ann Hughes, Executive Director, Harrogate Hub

Photo credit here , photo 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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Harrogate Hub Annual Report

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

Harrogate Hub Annual Report 2017

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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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Christmas angels fly far and wide!

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

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

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

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

We’ve had visitors from:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending you all Christmas greetings from the Harrogate Hub!

 

Written by Ella Green

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Loneliness: the big health risk and unspoken issue in Harrogate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article links:

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

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

https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org

Written by Rachel Williams
Edited by Ella Green

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Listening, laughing and loving at the Harrogate Hub

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

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

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

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

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

What did you learn from the pastoral care training course?

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

Why do you think Harrogate needs a Hub?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Interview by Ella Green

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