Let's Talk, Stansted! offers lifeline to those struggling with mental health issues
A woman distraught to read about three deaths in 10 days in the Stansted area has helped to set up a vital lifeline for those suffering alone with mental health issues.
She reached out to villagers asking for support and within weeks a core team of volunteers had formed to create Let’s Talk, Stansted! It was officially launched in the village on September 10 to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day.
“I was devastated to read in the local press about members of the community who had taken their own lives," said Elaine, who works for an organisation helping to rehabilitate offenders. "I felt compelled to see if there was something we could do to bring the community together and talk about mental health issues, especially given how much Covid-19 has impacted everyone.
“A lot of people think they're on their own because they don't feel they can talk about mental health issues, but it can happen to anyone and it’s OK to ask for help. It’s not about offering counselling, but we're a first port of call, a signposting service to point people in the direction of help.”
Elaine, who hails from Devon originally and now lives in Stansted, believes they could use a similar model to a volunteer group called Ask for Jake, set up in a Devon town following the suicide of an 18-year-old man and where community members are trained as mental health first aiders. They are the first point of contact for anyone who ‘Asks for Jake’.
Let's Talk Stansted! aims to have 'listeners' in the community for anyone in need. It is seeking volunteers to receive training and wants to hear from those who could offer their skills to the group.
Members spent four days out and about in the village following this month's launch, talking to people and recruiting volunteers, and have been “overwhelmed” by the response so far, said Elaine.
“It was incredible. We talked to people who cried, people who began opening up to us and we’ve not even started doing anything yet," she said. “We had 120 people sign up to either become a mental health first aider or to help in other ways."