Team North Yorkshire help support Mental Health Awareness Week

The coronavirus pandemic has left many of us both emotionally and physically drained, writes Louise Perrin.

Promoted by North Yorkshire County Council
Thursday, 6th May 2021, 11:22 am
From left: Leon Fijalkowski - Director, Orb Community Arts; Taomi Humphries – Volunteer - Mind in Harrogate District; Carrie Hyett - Befriending Coordinator - Mind in Harrogate District; Tina Chamberlain - CEO - Mind in Harrogate District; Leah Carling - Programme Coordinator - Mind in Harrogate District; and Jo Titchmarsh - Volunteer - Wellspring Therapy and Training

Long periods of reduced social interaction, limited family contact and enforced isolation has seen many people struggling with their mental wellbeing.

As lockdown eases and life slowly returns to normal, not everyone will feel confident about returning to their everyday life.

Our invaluable NHS has worked tirelessly to treat and counteract the effects of Covid-19, but now a new pandemic is looming, that of poor mental health.

Throughout lockdown dozens of local charities manned by hundreds of volunteers have shopped, made phone calls and delivered prescriptions to help those who could not help themselves and once again, the charity sector is stepping forward - this time to help those who are struggling with their mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Week, supported by the Mental Health Foundation, takes place from May 10-16, 2021, and seeks to highlight those who can offer support to people who are struggling.

Route One to Wellness is a collaboration between four mental health and wellbeing charities in the Harrogate District.

Between them charities Orb Community Arts, Harrogate Mind, Wellspring Therapy and Training and Claro Enterprises offer a range of support designed to meet the needs of local residents who need a helping hand with their mental wellbeing.

Claro Enterprises operates as a commercial workshop making goods for businesses

The Route One partnership works with local GP practices and with health & social care providers, to ensure those who need it get the right support, in the right place and at the right time.

Each charity offers a different approach to encourage positive mental health and wellbeing, enabling service users to receive the correct package of support for their needs

Orb Community Arts

Knaresborough based charity Orb helps people to lead fuller lives through being creative, learning new skills and volunteering in a supportive and inclusive space.

Through training and personal development, Claro Enterprises' clients can improve their quality of life, confidence, independence, self-esteem and gain skills

They offer a range of 1-1 and group sessions that inspire users to take part, explore their potential and grow in skill and confidence.

Strategic director, Leon Fijalkowski, said: “Orb offers singing, art, music and cabaret, IT and Gardening.

“It brings people together and keeps them well.

Volunteers help to deliver activities, they get involved in guitar lessons, piano lessons or a band.

Taomi Humphries volunteers with Mind in Harrogate District

“We always need volunteers - people who are creative - to support people who might be struggling with their mental health.

“If someone is creative, we'll find a way of harnessing that creative energy.”

Jon Axon is one such volunteer. After 20 years working in IT, he decided it was time to make some changes and pursue other interests.

He said: “ I wanted to do volunteer work and to have a direct, tangible impact on people’s lives and Orb ticked both boxes.

“My main activity is guitar lessons that I used to run on a Thursday prior to lockdown.

“All students have different goals, depending on what they want to get out of it.

“Some want company and to play with others, others concentrate on progression.

Jon, 42, was able to continue some lessons via zoom during lockdown ensuring that contact wasn’t lost entirely due to the pandemic.

He said volunteering at Orb gives him a real sense of achievement: “One student said to me ‘This lesson is the only reason I bothered getting dressed today.’

“It’s life-affirming during these times seeing the impact it has on people's lives.

Ernie Wood is 68, but assured our reporter he only looks 67.5. He started volunteering at Orb six years ago after taking a step back from a career in film, television and sport music.

Ernie became involved after a visit to Harrogate Community Hub who told him Orb were looking for someone with video editing skills.

He works with the charity’s cabaret group, who can use as much as 15 to 20 minutes of video during their one hour shows.

The Cabaret group meets once a week on zoom and Ernie has been working as an editor putting stuff together.

Ernie said the thing that makes Orb special is: “There is a sense of community from people from different walks of life. Volunteers as well as service users.

“There is a sense of being part of something and that sense of achievement I find rewarding.”

“It’s great to have a sense of value that you don't get so much in the home environment.

“It helps me to stay grounded when I see the challenges that service users have overcome.

“It keeps me in my place and allows me to see how privileged I am just to be in a community without struggles and challenges every day.”

Claro Enterprises

Claro Enterprises operates as a commercial workshop making goods for businesses, which enables those with long term mental health conditions to function in a voluntary real work environment.

Through training and personal development, clients can improve their quality of life, confidence, independence, self-esteem and gain skills, which will enable them to look for, and hopefully achieve, meaningful employment.

Manager Owen Jones said that while the business side of Claro, which operates Monday to Friday, is aimed mostly at those with complex mental health needs, Claro also offers support to the wider community with their men’s and ladies’ sheds.

The men’s shed tends to concentrate on woodwork projects, while the ladies' shed intends to tackle upholstery when Covid restrictions are lifted.

Owen said: “What we do here is about meeting up with other people and doing something constructive.

“Someone once said that men’s sheds work because men are better at talking side-by-side than face-to-face.

“I think that's the crux of it, to engage people even if some of the work is quite repetitive. It’s about doing something they know, completing a job and finishing it.

“It's doing something with other people and working as a team, to help them combine with other people so they are less anxious and more able.”

Wellspring Therapy and Training

Wellspring provides affordable, psychological support to people in distress and promote good mental health through education and training.

Based in Starbeck the organisation offers 50 minute counselling sessions once a week for up to 12 months.

The service provided would cost up to £50 per session with a private counsellor, however, as a charity, Wellspring seeks to provide professional, affordable counselling.

Clients are asked to pay an amount they can afford for counselling, with the more the client can contribute, the more able Wellspring is to offer help to people.

Those on income-related benefits also qualify for nominal charges per session.

Sarah James, Wellspring’s Therapeutic Lead, said the service is gradually building back up to support 130 people per week as it did before lockdown.

She said: “All of our counselling service volunteers are trained counsellors or counsellors in training.

“They stay on with us after they complete their training and do 3 or 4 sessions per week voluntarily.

“We work here because we have a shared vision. We help clients that couldn't afford counselling or wouldn't be able to access that level of support or private counselling.

“If you need help you can register directly on the website and help us match you with a counsellor that’s got expertise in that area.”

Harrogate Mind

Probably the best known of the Route 1 to Wellness partnership is Harrogate Mind who support positive mental health in the local community.

CEO Tina Chamberlain said: “Our vision is that people in Harrogate District have the best possible mental health.

“We promote and improve health and wellbeing in individuals and communities using a range of activities and services.

“We know that human companionship is really important in maintaining positive mental health. Our befriending service is for people struggling with their mental health who have feelings of anxiety, loneliness and isolation and who struggle to make social connections.

“We match clients with a volunteer befriender with the opportunity to meet for regular walks, a cup of coffee or shopping trips.

“We provide a confidential, professional counselling service for people who may be struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, low mood, a sense of loss, difficulties in their relationships and also struggling with anxiety about the COVID pandemic.

“Counselling can lead to positive change and increase self-esteem and confidence about the future.”

“Our monthly support programme covers a whole range of activities from Arts and Crafts, a walking group, a gardening group, a women’s group, relaxation and mindfulness sessions plus social sessions where you can relax and meet people in a friendly environment.

“Our monthly programme changes with new groups added so visit the website for an up to date programme and information about how to book onto these sessions.

“We offer a range of courses which are designed to help people manage their mental health and aid recovery; Managing Anxiety, Anger Management and Confidence Building plus hands on sessions to help build skills such as Healthy Eating and Money Management.”

“If you need someone to talk to and would like a weekly call then get in touch.”

“Our out of hours service offers emotional support at weekends (7pm – 10pm) for people experiencing mental distress and need someone to talk to.

“Volunteers are at the heart of our organisation and are essential to the work that we do - helping us deliver services and improve the lives of people living with mental health issues in our community.

“We are always looking for new volunteers who are passionate about supporting people with mental health issues and joining our small team of dedicated staff so if you can spare a couple of hours each week then call 01423 503335 or email [email protected]

One Mind volunteer said: “Volunteering for Mind in Harrogate District enables me to make a real difference to people struggling with their mental health in my community.

“It also gives me the chance to connect with others and develop my skills.

“I really enjoy working with the staff at Mind in Harrogate District – they have made me feel really welcome and being involved gives me a strong sense of achievement”.

Find advice about looking after your mental health and accessing support in North Yorkshire at

You can also find details of local voluntary and community groups at