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South Lakes mental health charity appeals for more funds

A support group enjoying the comfort of the ‘Lighthouse Hub’ based in Stricklandgate House

A South Lakeland mental health peer support charity is urgently seeking more funds to help it maintain and expand its services.

The Lighthouse Community Mental Health Hub (LCMHH) says that, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important time to provide support to people struggling with their mental health.

Now it is appealing to grant-giving bodies, companies and individuals to make a donation.

Maddy Iddon, chief executive officer of The Lighthouse Community Mental Health Hub

“Since the demise of South Lakeland Mind and Ulverston Mind we are now the mental health charity in South Lakeland,” said Maddy Iddon, chief executive officer of LCMHH.

“We are needed and we need to grow. Without additional funds we cannot do that and support all the people who are struggling with mental health issues – and there is a higher demand than ever now due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

LCMHH was launched in April 2019 after South Lakeland Mind closed. It moved into new offices in Stricklandgate House in Kendal and was running about eight drop-in groups 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, LCMHH ran cooking sessions at the Heron Corn Mill at Beetham, arts and crafts weekly sessions at Stricklandgate House, organised walks and was about to start conservation days with the National Trust. It also created a support group for people with fibromyalgia and ME, because it recognises that chronic pain and fatigue can quickly lead to poor metal health.

But when the first lockdown happened earlier this year all the face-to-face peer support services had to cease. “It was a challenge,” said Maddy. “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, LCMHH set up a major new initiative. Beacon is a one-to-one befriending service carried out over the phone. Currently there are 16 active volunteers, two inactive volunteers and five undergoing training. They look after 25 LCMHH members, usually with one-hour phone calls each week.

Robin Beadle, chair of trustees of The Lighthouse Community Mental Health Hub

“With many people feeling isolated because of the Covid-19 situation there has never been a more important time to provide support remotely,” said Robin Beadle, chair of LCMHH’s trustees.

LCMHH would love to expand the befriending service. It is looking for more volunteers but, crucially, it wants to employ a paid Beacon service co-ordinator.

However, its income has reduced as some of the funding it had been banking on has not materialised.

Robin said: “In order to run effectively and attract the necessary staff we really need to raise about £16,000 to cover us for the next year, in addition to the resources we have. Without that we would be compromising the service we can provide and we would not be able to expand and help more people.”

And Maddy added: “We can run with what we have got but we would not be able to take on new members. It would be a skin and bones service, reactive rather than pro-active.”

LCMHH is now urging organisations and companies to make donations. Individuals are also being encouraged to donate money or to raise it through sponsored activities, when social distancing rules allow.

Following the end of the second lockdown, two Covid-secure drop-in groups – an open group and a women’s group – have restarted at Stricklandgate House. Those wanting to attend cannot just turn up – instead they should contact LCMHH or get a referral through social prescribers, GPs or organisations they are involved with.

If anyone wants to volunteer for the Beacon service or get in touch with LCMHH they should email [email protected] or ring 07307 618914. Organisations and companies can use the same details if they want to make a donation. Individuals can donate via the charity’s Just Giving site – www.justgiving.com/thelighthousecmhh

Robin was full of praise for Stricklandgate House. “It is ideally located in Kendal with good access,” he said. “There are welcoming staff and it provides an environment where people can feel relaxed and comfortable.”

Maddy added that the other charities and not-for-profit organisations based at Stricklandgate House meant it was a great community, where groups helped each other.

John Gallagher, centre manager at Stricklandgate House, said he would like to thank The Lighthouse Community Mental Health Hub and other charities based at the centre for their continued support during the lockdowns of 2020.

If anyone wants more information about renting space at Stricklandgate House or hiring one of its meeting rooms, they should contact Centre Manager John Gallagher on 01539 742600 or email [email protected]

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