17th December 2020
A safe space and a home from home is how The Lighthouse Community Mental Health Hub has been described by the people who are being supported by its services and activities.
Based in Stricklandgate House in Kendal, the peer support charity was set up following the closure of South Lakeland Mind. Without the £6,000 grant from Brian and Ann Clark Fund, Holehird Trust and the Johnson Fund, it could not afford the rent of its own space and be able to create a safe environment.
Prior to COVID-19, about eight drop-in groups were available each week. The groups provided a relaxed, informal, safe and comfortable space, where people struggling with their mental health could drop in for a cuppa and chat about what they were going through. Many of those running the sessions had lived experience of poor mental health or had friends and family who had.
In addition, cooking sessions were on offer at the Heron Corn Mill at Beetham, arts and crafts weekly sessions at Stricklandgate House, organised walks and support groups for people with fibromyalgia and ME.
But when lockdown happened, all face-to-face peer support services had to cease. “It was a challenge,” said Maddy Iddon, Chief Executive. “We made sure all our regular drop-in attendees had information about how to contact us and we arranged for volunteers who they knew to keep checking in with them to offer support.
“Then we thought about everyone else who is struggling because of what is going on. For many people who already had mental health issues the pandemic has exacerbated these, both through the induced social isolation and reduced access to support services. Furthermore, some people would be experiencing mental health issues for the first time because of the anxiety and loneliness this year has brought.”
As a result, the charity set up Beacon, a one-to-one befriending service carried out over the phone. Currently there are 25 active volunteers who provide support each week, usually with one-hour phone calls.
Sarah* became a volunteer after being supported by the charity. She said: “Many of my anxieties are within the home and The Lighthouse is a safe, welcoming, supportive place to escape to for a few hours especially if you’re having a bad day. It is great to be able to ‘socialise’ at the Drop Ins with volunteers and peers who are empathetic to mental health issues. I have gained valued friendships and more. I have really missed The Lighthouse through the COVID-19 crisis but have been able to put something back by volunteering as a Befriender.”
Daniel* has also been supported by the Hub, he said: “The Lighthouse has truly lived up to its name by providing a beacon of hope and progress. Finding somewhere where I felt both safe and relaxed away from my safe space at home was a massive stepping stone in moving forward from self-isolation and crippling social anxiety.
“From simple social interaction over a brew, through gentle encouragement and reinforcement, to a genuine feeling of welcome and belonging, The Lighthouse has excelled in providing a much needed and appreciated support facility in the local community.”
*name has been changed