Small community group makes a big difference

4th December 2020

Please note: this group photo was taken prior to COVID-19.

We were pleased to help Open Door Loughton become established two years ago. Now a further grant of £500 has been awarded to the group from our Essex Coronavirus Response and Recovery Programme.

The organisation has proved to be a lifeline for adults of all ages by offering them vital support following their discharge from an acute mental health ward.

The funding has been welcomed by Paula Wilson, a retired headteacher who set up the group to fill a gap after a similar local organisation closed down. Paula knew from first-hand experience how much such a service was needed, because she had seen how it had helped her daughter.

“The grant from ECF has enabled our group to keep going through these challenging times,” said Paula. “It has paid for the hire of the church hall where we meet and, under the Coronavirus regulations, we have an exemption which allows us to have meetings of up to 15 people.

“We can continue to offer the basic friendship and support that people need so much when they are discharged from a mental health unit. They find it hard to settle back into the community and may feel very much on their own.

“The value of our group has been recognised by a consultant psychiatrist who said that the improvements he could see in people who had been inpatients was amazing. The members of the group are so supportive of each other and they can enjoy social interaction and activities in a safe place, with people around them who understand mental health problems.”

One member of the group, Steph, said: “I have really found it to be a lifeline. When people are discharged from a mental health ward, they often don’t have access to ongoing care. Coming to the club means that there is a place where you can socialise and not feel isolated. It is a place where you can speak openly and know that you are not going to be judged. For 13 years, since I was 17, I used to self harm, but I will soon reach the milestone of being harm free for two years.

“After a lot of upheaval in my life I am much more positive, and I was recently able give a talk about self-harm. Afterwards a few people came up to me and said they had their own experiences of self harm but had never told anyone. It was good for them to know that someone understood the vicious cycle of self¬ harm and, if what I am doing helps at least one person to be more sympathetic, then it is worthwhile.”

All the members of the group are looking forward to being able to expand and develop its activities, including healthy cooking sessions which had to stop because of the Coronavirus restrictions.

Open Door Loughton has come a long way in two years, and it looks set to give much needed support to many more people in the years to come.

Find out how you can support your local, grassroots community groups here.