Royston Talks: Could you benefit from new support service?

Royston Talks is a new initiative where volunteers chat over the phone with residents who are experi

Royston Talks is a new initiative where volunteers chat over the phone with residents who are experiencing isolation or stress during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Royston vs Coronavirus - Credit: Archant

A new scheme has launched in Royston to help get isolated members of the community chatting with their neighbours during the coronavirus lockdown.

Kate Beed is leading the new Royston Talks scheme. Picture: Kate Beed

Kate Beed is leading the new Royston Talks scheme. Picture: Kate Beed - Credit: Archant

Royston Talks is headed up by mental health training manager Kate Beed, who has told the Crow what benefits talking over the phone with a friendly fellow resident could have on those feeling lonely or stressed in the pandemic.

The initiative is part of the Royston vs Coronavirus volunteer group, which has been providing support to those needing help with collecting medication, shopping and more in town since it started a month ago.

Kate said: “As we have gone on helping with practical things, we’ve seen that some people need emotional support.

“It’s the realisation that this is tough for everybod – whatever your circumstances are it can be a challenging time and every day feels the same.

“This is a stressful situation we are in and it’s not something to panic about but it’s recognising there are steps to take to help you, just like keeping physically well. We know we should eat five fruit and veg a day for example, your mental health is similar.

“This is not a mental health helpline, it is a neighbour-to-neighbour chat for those needing it in the community.

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“Having a connection is really important to wellbeing, and while some people have a couple of people they can chat with at this time, others don’t.

“It could be anyone who benefits from this. You may normally get your connections going out into town and saying hello to people – Royston is a friendly place, you walk down the street and see people you know – but that’s not happening now.

“It could help people who are living on their own – both younger people who are perhaps in a flat on their own, and older people.

“There might be those finding it stressful being off work and not having enough structure to their day, or people who are worried about others – relatives who might not live close to them in town, for example. It could also benefit people who are struggling because their kids are at home all the time. It is difficult to work and have children in the house.

“Human beings are meant to be social, and if one thing comes out of this in that we have more social connections, that is a good thing.

“We’ve got a group of 15 volunteers with an understanding of good listening conversations – some have had pastoral care roles in schools, some are Samaritans and some are counsellors themselves.

“It would follow the same model as the Royston vs Coronavirus requests – someone needing support would phone us and that person would get passed on to one of our volunteers to have a chat with them.

“What we’ll be able to do is talk and suggest a few tips and could help – like getting the right amount of sleep, eating and drinking the right things, and exercising. When routine goes out the window it is difficult.

“We’ll help you think about how can you introduce things that brings joy into your routine – there might be a playlist to lift your mood, doing cooking or baking, watching a recording of your favourite football game.”

Mum-of-three Kate has lived in Royston for 20 years and previously lived in Ashwell and Baldock.

She began working for the Cambridge, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire branch of charity Mind after her sister died by suicide three years ago, and in her role she delivers suicide mitigation training to doctors and nurses.

“I know from personal experience how very, very serious and damaging this can be.

“Something like having a chat could slightly take the pressure off and give you a different perspective about what you can do to cope.

“We all have mental health, It’s on a continuum. You can have really good wellbeing but still have poor mental health.

“It’s really helpful to make people realise it’s not a sign of weakness. It is OK.

“It’s about recognising that you can feel all right one day and then feel completely overwhelmed the next – and that’s normal. We’re just saying that having a conversation could help.”

If you want to get in touch with the team, either to access support or if you’re interested in volunteering, go to the Royston vs Coronavirus Facebook page and fill out their online form, call 01763 259203 or email