With the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9 to 15 May) being loneliness, Wokingham Borough Council wants to promote the many services and initiatives that can support people.
The annual awareness week has been running for more than 20 years, but this year’s focus on loneliness is an opportunity to overcome some of the challenges that have been made worse by Covid-19.
Loneliness has a huge impact on your mental and physical health, but there are a number of ways to reduce isolation and make new friends.
Breaking the stigma
Dr Ingrid Slade, assistant director for population health, integration and partnerships, said: “Knowing that our residents have easy access to a variety of excellent services that can help with their mental health is very important to us.
“One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives and those people can often experience feelings of isolation, stigma and a reluctance to seek advice and support.
“That is why we must do what we can to promote the work volunteers and charities in our community are putting in to ensure we break down those barriers and be there for people when it is most needed. We are fortunate to have so many initiatives running across the borough, which support all ages and encourage people to make new friends.
“Our priority is to offer our residents access to quality care and support, at the right time. If you are suffering with your mental health, you are not alone – help is available.”
Mental health support
If you need help to better manage mental illness such as anxiety and depression, you can contact Wokingham Borough Council’s Recovery College or the NHS Talking Therapies service.
The college gives people with mental health problems the chance to access education workshops and the summer prospectus has recently been published. It helps people to become experts in self-care and is a non-judgemental space where residents can confidentially share their experiences.
The Wokingham Borough Community Response’s One Front Door service also provides support on 0300 330 1189 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org
Support is also available for children and young people. Kooth offer free online counselling and emotional well-being support for our younger residents and Arc Wokingham also provide a safe, non-judgemental and confidential space for children aged 11 and over to explore their thoughts and feelings.
The Friendship Alliance
This initiative was brought together two years ago by The Link Visiting Scheme, Wokingham Volunteer Centre, Age UK Berkshire and Involve Community Services to tackle loneliness and improve the wellbeing of residents in Wokingham Borough.
It is hoped that community spaces, cafes and pubs will offer to host a ‘Friendship Table’ on a regular basis, encouraging people to meet up, connect with others and feel supported.
Jac Pluves, who runs a Friendship Table at Finchampsted Church on Tuesday mornings, said: “As is often the case with volunteering, you offer to get involved because you want to help other people, but you end up benefitting yourself.
“I really look forward to a weekly catch-up with regulars who warmly welcome new people to join in with the conversation and friendship. We share stories, worries, advice and future plans, all while enjoying coffee and cake in the café.”
The Friendship Alliance wants to establish a network of ‘Friendship Champions’ to promote the services, actively encourage friendships and develop community spirit. The Link Visiting Scheme also offers a Friendship Service, which matches older people with volunteers based on common interests.
You can find out more on The Link Visiting Scheme website.
Wokingham Volunteer Centre
This has served the community since 1974 by promoting and recruiting thousands of volunteers for hundreds of charities.
The centre provides a transport scheme for people who cannot drive or use public transport, using volunteer drivers who act as companions. This low-cost, membership-based alternative allows them to get to medical appointments, go on social trips and do their shopping.
The service also offers a Green ‘n Tidy initiative, a gardening scheme for elderly and disabled residents who cannot maintain their own properties. It is run by a team of volunteers who provide basic gardening, including lawn mowing, hedge trimming and weeding.
You can find out more on the Wokingham Volunteer Centre website or call (01189) 770749.
Community navigators at Involve
Involve Community Services is a local charity supporting other causes and community organisations. The scheme helps individuals to gain access to local groups, activities and services that match their needs.
Located at the Wokingham Charity & Community Hub at Waterford House, the navigation scheme is an information and signposting service for all residents of Wokingham Borough. Requesting support from the navigation team is easy: residents over the age of 18 can contact the service directly or be referred by their GP, a family member or social worker.
You could be a young parent looking for peer support or an elderly person looking for support with managing your health. The service, which runs from 9am to 5pm on weekdays, helps more than 30 residents a month and improves health, wellbeing and confidence.
You can find out more on the Involve website or contact email@example.com
Mental health emergency
If you are facing a mental health crisis, contact NHS 111.
There are services available that offer confidential support from trained volunteers, allowing you to talk about anything that is troubling you, no matter how difficult.
Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a reply within 24 hours. You can text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text “YM” if you are under 19.
If you are under 19, you can also call Childline on 0800 1111 and the number will not appear on your phone bill.
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