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Mind reaches milestone anniversary.
Saturday 9th February 2019 @ 11:14 by Anna Fletcher
Community News

This year Tameside, Oldham and Glossop Mind are celebrating being part of the community for 40 years.

The charity has only grown since its beginnings as a social group and now offers a variety of things to support people with their mental health and wellbeing.

CEO Jenny Higson, has been with the organisation since 2003 beginning as a volunteer before moving into a paid role in 2004.

She said: “I wanted to work in mental health because I have had personal experience both with my family and the knock-on impact on my own mental health as have a lot of our staff today. I did what used to be called Duty Calls, people may know them more now as an introduction or assessment. I would meet with people to see what their needs were and tell them what we could offer and I also worked in the social club.

“I’ve been proud to be part of an organisation that has been able to really make a difference and adapt and change, listen to the community, listen to what people are saying and roll with that as opposed to being more top down heavy.”

Before the charity officially became affiliated with the national charity, Mind, it was a social club. Individuals from the community along with social workers recognised there was a gap for people struggling with their mental health to have a social outlet and created the club to fill it.

Jenny said: “It used to be based at Chester Square, that is when I joined the organisation and it was very community led. Eventually they became affiliated with National Mind who helped with how to build on the brand, get funding, put governance in and they implemented a counselling service which is when they really started to grow.”

The organisation began to change in 2008 when there was a really big social inclusion agenda and the funding for the social club was in jeopardy.

Jenny explained: “Whilst we were keeping people safe as part of the social club, we were also inadvertently growing a belief that people didn’t have their own resources or abilities to cope. People who came to the social club would say things like ‘it’s not safe for us out there’ and the conversations between people would be very much about their diagnosis.

“It was like they had lost that they were brothers, sisters, parents, children, friends-that identity had gone. So although it had been useful and we had kept people safe in that time, on reflection we were warehousing people and helping them to keep themselves separate from the community when they were part of the community which wasn’t healthy.”

The charity took steps to change that including the closing of the social club with Mind’s focus becoming more geared towards helping people to gain the confidence they needed to take part in the things they enjoyed in their own communities.

Jenny said: “We used to have this rickety old bingo machine and a pool table and both were popular and we recognised that people were wanting to take part in those things, but why were we not encouraging them to go to some local bingo or pool halls? So it became more about us working with people to gain the confidence to go out and socialise in meaningful activities in their communities.

“When we first talked about our vision around the social club closing, we got some quite strong criticism, but we felt strongly about the new direction because those individuals were part of the community not separate from it. The belief that they were somehow separate was coming from the professionals not the community and it was very exciting to be a part of that change.”

Jenny credits previous Chief Executive, Richard Edwards, for the work in moving forward saying: “I think Tameside, Oldham and Glossop Mind have been an integral part of recognising and starting to break down the stigma around mental health and Richard was a massive advocate for flying the flag.

“He was very brave in what he was saying, he wrote a paper called ‘The death of the service user’ asking why the term was used as it is almost saying that only specific people have mental health when everybody has mental health just like everybody has physical health. Changes came quite quickly and the work became much more focused around social inclusion.”

The organisation only grew from there both with staff, volunteers and physically as the building was extended to allow more room for projects, training and staff.

The current work they are involved in is much more around transformation.

Jenny explained: “As well as supporting people experiencing mental ill health we do a lot of work with individuals and communities on staying well, preventing mental ill health and accessing support at the right time”.

 “You only have to look at physical health and how something like heart disease is treated. People are trying to work with individuals before they get to that stage and it is the same with mental health. We do a lot of work in schools, educating around mental health, destigmatising it and looking at the impact around stress, anxiety and depression. We also have a good working relationship with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).”

The charity also work in communities helping people to build resilience and are looking at what they call ‘community connectors.’

Jenny said: “Places like hairdressers or taxi drivers are community connectors. A person talks to their hairdresser or offloads to them their worries and woes so they are a perfect point to start signposting or offering recommendations or tips on self-care so we are really working in partnership with other sectors of the community as well as other organisations like Healthy Minds, the NHS, Pennine Care. There is still a long way for us to go working with more grassroots organisations, but there is a lot of work being done and our staff are working in a much more asset-based approach.”

An asset-based approach involves asking individuals to put forward the good things in their lives and themselves as well as asking about the issues and how they can support.

Jenny added: “Most people have got to the age they are with the problems they have and are still surviving which shows they have some real strengths within them and the asset-based approach is about how we can tap into those strengths and start treating people as individuals rather than systems.

“Essentially all the work we do across our footprint is about early intervention support, making sure that people develop that toolkit of resources to help their own health and wellbeing on a day to day basis so all of our projects have that underpinning. The less people that hit crisis point the better and what we have found is that the people we have worked with become informal ambassadors in a way and go out into the community and talk to other people about their mental health journey.”

The charity also offers counselling for both adults and young people, work with families, drop-in sessions, Active Monitoring, Community Resilience, perinatal workshops and therapeutic courses.

They have also created The Hive, a safe space for children and young people to come and get involved in activities or access help and support for any issues they are experiencing in their lives. The Hive is currently operating in Tameside every Wednesday from 4-7.30pm at the charity on Katherine Street in Ashton and Mondays from 4-8pm at The Bureau at Bank House in Glossop.

They also have a thriving programme, ‘Mind in Greater Manchester Training’ offering courses on everything from Mental Health First Aid to being a Mindful Employer. Accredited courses are also available including counselling.

The organisation also offers many volunteer opportunities and currently have between 80 and 100 volunteers across the organisation.

Jenny said: “We want people to volunteer with us and move on into other sectors taking our values and ethos with them. We see ourselves as a development opportunity. Our belief is that if you share our values and our ethos we can train you in the other things so if you share our vision there are lots of opportunities here.”

Volunteering opportunities available across the charity from admin to the café and HR to working in the community.

People can also donate or fundraise for the charity. Donations can be given at the charity or through www.togmind.org as well as their social media channels. They also have a Just Giving page for anyone wanting to fundraise independently.

Fundraising and Marketing Senior Manager, Jason Bromley, said: “If people are interested in fundraising, but don’t know where to start just get in touch with us because we have a wealth of ideas and we can support people. We are so appreciative of everyone who donates or raises money. We recently received £500 from Delph Primary School, they wanted to give something to a local mental health charity after the Manchester attack.

“For young people to take that initiative is amazing. What warmed my heart was those pupils coming together and collectively wanting to do something good and being able to go in and talk to them about mental health and answer any questions they had was amazing.”

You can follow Tameside, Oldham and Glossop Mind on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube or find out more at www.togmind.org or by calling 0161 330 9223.