December 11 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 10, 2013
A Norfolk charity is calling on people to use today – World Mental Health Day – to consider how they can help people with mental health problems in their community.
A Friend in Need is a campaign run by the Norwich Evening News and Voluntary Norfolk to increase the number of volunteer befrienders in the city.
Inspired by the tragic case of a Lakenham man found dead at home in January 2012, who may have been dead for months before being discovered, the campaign aims to reduce loneliness and isolation by pairing vulnerable people with volunteers.
Not all the clients on Voluntary Norfolk’s books are at risk, but all benefit greatly from spending a couple of hours a week with a befriender.
A Friend in Need this year won high-profile backing from Norfolk coroner William Armstrong, and its impact on the city has been recognised with it being named Community Campaign of the Year at the EDF Energy East of England Media Awards in February 2013. To find out more, call Voluntary Norfolk on 01603 614474.
Voluntary Norfolk runs a specialist mental health befriending service (MHBS), whose volunteers spend an hour or two a week to visit people with lasting mental health problems.
Their visits offer a lifeline against loneliness, which can be a potential trigger for depression and deteriorating mental health.
And the call to action has been backed by those already giving up their time.
By taking part in leisure or social activities – from sitting and chatting over a cup of tea, to seeing a film or going to the cinema –the befrienders help to maintain people’s quality of life, and keep them out of hospital or care.
Volunteering manager Andrew Morter said: “Simply seeing a friendly face for a couple of hours can give a huge boost to someone’s week. Our volunteers say that the difference they see in people’s outlook and alertness, even after just a few visits, can be quite remarkable.”
The specialist (MHBS) volunteers help people in Norwich with severe and enduring mental health problems in danger of becoming isolated, and offer a safe and confidential relationship which can make a significant difference to their wellbeing and happiness.
David Hawkins of Hethersett was motivated to volunteer after he suffered a panic attack himself at work – a moment he now describes as “the best thing that happened to me in the worst possible way”.
He learned about his own mental health and changed careers, giving up his supermarket manager’s role to become a mental health worker, which was supported by his work as an MHBS volunteer.
Father-of-two Mr Hawkins, 38, said the experience had “opened his eyes”, and urged others to join him as a volunteer. He said: “I had a really good experience and have made a friend from it. I’ve been able to see an improvement in my client and also really enjoyed everything I’ve done.”
Coordinator Natalie Hickman said the service was “vital”, and that it boosted clients’ self-esteem and social skills. She said: “I hear all the time that this service makes a real difference in people’s lives – all this from giving just one or two hours a week!”
To help A Friend in Need and become a befriender, call Voluntary Norfolk on 01603 614474, email email@example.com or see www.voluntarynorfolk.co.uk.