The past 20 months have been an extremely challenge time across the globe. The Covid pandemic has brought death to millions of people and life changing symptoms to many more. Whilst the impact on people’s physical health are easy to see and treat, it is the unseen impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing that is much more difficult to spot and deal with.
In addition to health related issues, the Covid pandemic has brought to a head many social issues that have been bubbling under the surface for many years. The stresses of everyday living, trying to balance work and family, home and school and maintaining relationships and friendships have all been accentuated by the constraints imposed on us in order to mitigate the impact of the virus. In addition, for a significant number of people things like the low wage economy, furlough, unemployment, rising debt and working from home have added greatly to those stresses. As a result, for many, breaking point is either within a hairs breadth away or has been reached.
Physical illnesses and ailments are relatively easy to spot but when someone is suffering inner turmoil it is much more difficult. You may think you know someone, even someone very close to you, but recognising that they are struggling mentally is much more difficult and in extreme situations it is only when someone snaps or even takes their own life that we become aware.
We are all guilty in varying degrees of soldiering on as if nothing is wrong. The words of Smokey Robinson’s ‘The Tears of Clown’ sum this up perfectly.
No matter how great or challenging a problem or situation may seem there is always a way to resolve it. A problem shared is a problem halved may be an old adage but it is in my experience absolutely true. The very act of sharing a problem can very often even solve it, perhaps not immediately but in talking it through the light at the end of the tunnel becomes brighter as a resolution comes into view.
Over the past few weeks I have been invited to visit a range of groups that in very different ways are potential sources of support:
The Cow Shed at Number 17
Bridport Medical Centre already do a fine job but, they want to do more….. Working alongside the Bridport Health Champions, they are looking to develop projects that will have a positive impact on our community’s well-being. The first is The Cowshed at Number 17, a wheelchair-friendly allotment and garden adjacent to the Medical Centre on West Street.
This will be extended with a wetland/wildlife area and a “Kindness Garden”, growing flowers and salads for people to take home. The group has been working hard to raise funds for a 6×4 tool shed, timber for raised beds and workstations, and materials for a Social Shelter.
I am pleased to report that all of the items listed have been purchased thanks generous donations and are now all in place. A big thank you for the support of the Bridport Rotary Club, local businesses and the Town Council works team.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the official opening of all of these resources and meeting some of the Health Champions and users.
Access to the resource is by a medical referral. Social prescribing enables GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services to support their health and wellbeing. The Cow Shed at Number 17 is the first such resource in Bridport. It was evident from the staff and users I spoke to on the day of my visit that it is working. The opportunity to be outdoors, engaged in meaningful tasks and most importantly interacting with others is proving to be a real tonic and more valuable in the long term than simply prescribing medication.
This poem written by one of the members oozes with the joy being involved brings.
The group is always looking for community members with skills and time to help realise this project. Remember giving help and support can be as much of a tonic as receiving it. To find out more visit the Facebook Page “The Cowshed at Number 17”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1711864158963997/
The Burrough Harmony Centre
The Burrough Harmony Centre provides a friendly, welcoming, informal service offering peer support, information, signposting and a variety of enjoyable activities to local people who are living with a mental health problem. For anyone reaching a mental health crisis they provide a non judgmental and safe space to talk and be listened to. Their services are for adults only on a self referral basis.
Accessing support from the Harmony team could not be easier. You do not need a GP referral or appointment – simply go along to The Assembly Rooms, Gundry Lane, Bridport, DT6 3RL and ring the doorbell for an immediate confidential face-to-face meeting or click the link to find out more: https://www.harmonydropin.org.uk/ or call 07385 290804 to make an appointment
Virtual drop-in appointments are also available at: www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/access-mental-health
During the summer Harmony Drop In is able to offer outdoor activities where you can meet other Harmony members and staff, (depending on the weather!)
Allotment Group – every Tuesday 11am – 1pm at the community allotment next to The Community Orchard.
Meet and Chat – every Wednesday 10.30am -12.30pm In the Community Orchard behind St Mary’s Church.
When I popped into the Assembly Rooms recently I was warmly greeted and immediately offered a cup of tea and a piece of cake – what could be more relaxing and reassuring?
Bridport Youth and Community Centre
Situated at the bottom of Gundry Lane the Bridport Youth and Community Centre (BYCC) looks rather austere from the outside but step inside and the ex military building becomes a multi faceted place where people of all ages can meet and enjoy each others company.
Two years ago Dorset County Council withdrew all funding for the Centre and the BYCC was set to close. A much valued resource that had served several generations of local people was about to be lost. But, thanks to six trustees and a handful of volunteers and funding the Centre was saved.
Today the BYCC is very proud of the work it does and the difference it makes to the lives of people that live within Bridport and neighbouring villages. BYCC offers an array of activities, services and initiatives for people of all ages, from all walks of life. At its heart is a real desire to enable people to enjoy the centre and the services it has to offer. What was once simply thought of as a Youth Centre has become ‘ Your Community Centre!’.
Today the primary objectives are:
- to help prevent social isolation within our community,
- to promote well-being and make people feel part of the community.
BYCC provides a Youth Club three times a week with over 200 Youth Club members. A team of DRB Youth Workers put on activities for young people to experience and as well as provide a listening ear outside of the parent/teacher remit.
Included amungst the range of things you will find taking place at the BYCC are:
A Lottery funded young people’s vehicle project, which attracts many youngsters giving them the opportunity to work with qualified mechanics repairing and maintaining motor vehicles. Some of these youngsters have gone on to secure apprenticeships with local garages.
A 30 year old boxing club, which provides girls boys and young adults with training and chances to compete in a professional ring three days a week.
A fully equipped recording studio giving young people interested in the Bridport music scene an appropriate ‘space’ for practising and turning their ‘creations’ into recordings.
Overarching this is the provision of a safe place for young people to ‘hang out’. It keeps them off the streets and helps prevent bored teenagers, which can sometimes lead to anti-social behaviour. It also gives the young people a chance to experience a new activity or interest, have fun and meet new friends.
As we become increasingly aware that social isolation can lead to depression and poor mental health. People under the age of 21 and those over 55 are more likely to be affected by this. According to Age Concern a large percentage of retirees suffer from depression as generally family’s have their own lives, they often no longer have the social circles they once had or have suffered the loss of a spouse. This is a particular cause for concern in Dorset as it is the 2nd most popular place to retire to in the UK.
For the over 50’s BYCC hosts a walking football and table tennis club. The aim is to get the over 50s off their chairs, away from the TV and out socialising with people of a similar age, having fun and getting physically fit in the process.
On the day of my recent visit, a group of parents with their babies and toddlers were having a great time in the main hall using the extensive range of play equipment that had been laid out for them. Whilst the children played they were developing valuable social, and physical skills. But of equal importance was the opportunity for the parents to talk, share experiences and be of support to one and other.
Today the building is so much more that a Youth Club. It is rapidly becoming one of the key ‘Community’ spaces in Bridport. To find out more about what’s on offer and how to become involved go to: https://www.bridportycc.com/
These are just three examples of the groups and organisations that exist in Bridport. Believe me there is something for every age group and interest happening somewhere in this town. By becoming involved either as a provider, volunteer or simply as a participant you open new doors. Doors that will lead to an enriched and more fulfilling life.
Whether it is coping with grief and loss, debt, drug and alcohol related issues, or simply that you are feeling lonely, unloved or undervalued making the effort to talk to people will make all the difference. One way to overcome that initial barrier is to join a group, club, society or activity, and as a consequence you will find yourself talking to people with a common interest in whom you will in time feel confident enough to share a problem with. In my experience as soon as you do that you will not only feel better but will have found a friend and someone who will be of support.
Click the following link to discover just some of the Clubs and Societies that meet in Bridport: https://bridportandwestbay.co.uk/community/
For information and support with financial matters including benefits and debt, employment, housing, consumer, family, law and courts, immigration and a host of other issues Citizens Advice provide a fantastic free service available to all. Use the following link to find out more: https://bridportca.org.uk/get-advice.html or call 01308 456594.
Other organisations that can offer help and support Dorset Mind www.dorsetmind.uk; Childline www.childline.org.uk, Phone No: 0800 1111; Refuge – for women and children against domestic violence www.nationalhelpline.org.uk, Phone No: 0808 2000247; Al-Anon – support for family and friends of alcoholics www.al-anonuk.org, Phone No: 0800 0086811, Cupboard Love – Bridport Food Bank https://www.facebook.com/bridportfoodbank/ Phone No: 07443 596096
If things really are becoming too much and you don’t know where to turn the Samaritans offer a free non judgemental service every day and night throughout the year. To find out more go to:https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/if-youre-having-difficult-time/, Phone No: 116 123.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.