Bassingbourn woman tackles mental health 'taboo' in Royston group

PUBLISHED: 08:58 27 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:56 10 October 2018

Jessica Lake has started a mental health group in Royston. Picture: Jessica Lake

Jessica Lake has started a mental health group in Royston. Picture: Jessica Lake

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A young Bassingbourn woman has taken it upon herself to start a peer-led support group for people with mental health illnesses in Royston and the surrounding villages.

Jessica Lake, who is training to be a social worker, said she was inspired to start the group during a placement in Haverhill as part of her studies.

The 28-year-old told the Crow: “I noticed how there was so much support from either professionals or peers, such as weekly groups held in their library for those experiencing a mental health issue in that area, and that there was very little support for individuals where we are.

“I have worked in mental health services for the past seven years, including six years at Kneesworth House Hospital as a healthcare worker supporting people who have illnesses from personality disorders to schizophrenia.

“It’s not nice to see someone really distressed and there’s not much you can do about it – you have to do your best to support them how you can.”

She got in touch with charity Rethink Mental Illness, which helped her start up the group, which will meet every other Thursday at Coombes Community Centre in Royston.

“People are talking about mental health more, but it is still a taboo subject despite initiatives like World Mental Health Day.

“I started a Facebook page and within three days it had 80 likes and lots of shares. There’s a closed group and an open page, so people can possibly use the closed group to feel more comfortable with the people first.”

Jessica, who has previously lived in Litlington and Royston, has also had her own experience of struggling with her mental health.

She said: “I had a big operation a couple of years ago, and after that I developed bad anxiety.

“I started on the Thrive Programme self-help course, which helped me to manage.

“I found it really helpful, so it’s an experience I can share – rather than going along as ‘the professional’.

“The group will start off as a social gathering to get people talking, and then as it grows it will become more peer-led and I hope we can get guest speakers in and do different activities.

“There may be people who have 9am to 5pm jobs but also have their own struggles, and this could help them. There may be people who do feel isolated in their homes and this would give them something to look forward to – that’s what it’s all about.

“Even if I can get one person to come out and feel a bit better, that would be brilliant.”

The next Royston Mental Health Peer Support Group social meeting is this evening from 7pm until 8.30pm at Coombes Community Centre in Burns Road. The next one after that is October 11 – the day after World Mental Health Day 2018.

If you want to find out more, email Jessica on roystongroup@rethink.org or call 07840 869493.

You can also search for ‘Royston Rethink mental health peer support group’ on Facebook.

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