New resource run by the Methodist Church in Haverhill is filling a void in mental health support
A new service in Haverhill for individuals who need help and support in dealing with mental health difficulties is already having a positive impact on lives, just seven weeks after its launch.
Open Mind - Meaningful Support has been running since January 24 at the Next Door Coffee Shop , in Camps Road, where it is held every Thursday from 1.30pm to 3.30pm.
The project leader for the new - and free - drop-in, is Charmaine Slade, a lay pioneer for the Methodist Church who has a self confessed 'strong passion' for helping people with mental health issues.
Charmaine is a mental health advocate with experience of working in prisons for the charities MIND and Rethink Mental Illness, and seeing that Haverhill had a poor provision for mental health support, she set about changing that.
"When it became apparent that there was no positive change going to be happening here I set out my stall , saying I would like to set up a provision," explained Charmaine.
"We have the expertise in church and we have the will."
After two years of research a team was put together, including trained counsellors, mental health nurses and Rev Peter Goodall, who has 20 years of experience as a Methodist Church minister, plus Charmaine, to provide the assistance to those who attend Open Mind.
The resource has been visited by a link worker for the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, who was pleased with its work and will be referring people to it, said Charmaine, and it has been endorsed by local GPs, who have made impromptu visits to see it in action.
Charmaine said: "People just need to be heard and that's the biggest absence in this town, for people to have their stories heard.
"We are able to provide support for common mental health disorders and we can also signpost people to something more appropriate, either instead of us or as well as.
"We've already got a little group who have met here and are clearly developing friendships and relationships and are supporting each other and that's what we want."
The gratitude expressed by one visitor shows how the service can help, said Charmaine.
She said: "She wrote to say thank you so much for your time yesterday. I'm so pleased I came along. I purchased the book you mentioned and it is brilliant."
All of the volunteers who run the service are trained to deal with mental health issues to an advanced level, are DBS checked and confidentiality agreements are in place.
"We have a good relationship with the local statutory service providers," added Charmaine. "They understand us and we understand them and where the overlap is.
"People who are coming here need to know that no problem is too big and no problem is too small and sometimes people just want to say, 'just listen to me.'
"We can't believe how well people have responded. We are delighted.
"So many men are coming here (78 men in the UK die from suicide every week, according to CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably). We are having tangible written responses from people who have been. Some of the doctors are referring to us directly.
"This is a vital service."
Email Open Mind at email@example.com