The mental health crisis service offering a helping hand to people in need for four years

A fundraising campaign has been launched to help meet the increased demand for a mental health crisis service, as it marks its fourth birthday. Laura Reid reports.

The Haven mental health crisis service is marking its fourth birthday.

“People will very regularly say to us that if it wasn’t for this service, they wouldn’t be alive.”

Since its founding four years ago, Haven, a mental health crisis service has run more than 14,000 support sessions, helping over 8,000 individuals in Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven. The figures themselves speak for its value and Kim Shutler’s words only highlight further its profound effect. “We are humbled and privileged to be able to deliver a service that saves people’s lives,” she continues.

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Kim is CEO of The Cellar Trust, a mental health charity that since the 1980s has been helping people across the Bradford district to move forward in their recovery and live independent, fulfilling lives.

A fundraising appeal has been launched as demand for the service has risen.

Haven was an addition to its offering in 2016, designed in partnership with Bradford Council, the NHS, police, ambulance service and voluntary sector organisations as part of a response to feedback from people across the district that there needed to be improvements to the way individuals were supported in crisis.

Based in Shipley, it provides people aged over 16 who feel they are unable to cope and are in need of immediate support, with a non-clinical environment in which to work through the crisis. Haven also supports them to access any further help they may need which could include therapy, drug and alcohol support or help from a community mental health team.

“It was recognised that when people are in distress, when they’re feeling at their very lowest, they don’t always want a clinical response,” Kim explains, as Haven marks its fourth birthday this month. “They don’t always want to talk to a doctor or a nurse or a social worker and creating a space where people feel safe and where they feel they can be supported in a different way, was coming out really strongly in feedback.

“Haven is a non-clinical safe space for people to receive support as an alternative to A&E... It’s a brief intervention service specifically designed to work with people in that moment of crisis to help them de-escalate the crisis and tap into wider support in the community.”

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Haven became Ben’s safe space. “I had somewhere to go where I felt safe and could talk to someone who understood me. I’d hit rock bottom, and felt like I had no one. I’m looking forward to the future now. I no longer suffer from depression or anxiety, and I don’t drink anymore. I’m full of confidence.

"I’m back out cycling and going to the gym, I volunteer at charity shop and I’ve made new friends. I’m hoping to change careers and move into the care industry. I’ve been inspired by Haven and hope to help someone else like The Cellar Trust helped me.”

For Sarah, also not a real name, the impact, too, has been transformative. She was supported by Haven whilst suffering with mental health problems, suicidal thoughts and chronic fatigue and then joined a peer support group at The Cellar Trust.

“I know I will receive good advice from people that have been through or are going through the same as me,” she says. “I have become more patient with advice and techniques I’ve learnt from attending the peer support group and this in turn helps me with anger and depression.”

Ben and Sarah’s stories are far from unique. In fact, the crisis service is now in greater demand than ever and, to tie in with Haven’s fourth anniversary, a fundraising campaign has been launched in the hope of generating £50,000 to pay for the hire of two extra workers to join the team.

The Cellar Trust says the Haven service ran its highest ever number of support sessions in April, after the UK went into lockdown, whilst its community fundraising, which supports funding that the service receives from the NHS Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group, has taken a huge a hit due to social distancing restrictions.

Although the NHS has increased investment in ‘safe spaces’, the level of demand means additional capacity is needed. “The sad thing is that there are people who are really desperate for the support we deliver and at the moment, we can’t deliver that in the timely way we think we need to for people in crisis,” Kim says.

“We are talking about people who are feeling at rock bottom like there’s nowhere else to turn and we’re desperately worried about those people. If we don’t get this funding, it means that more and more people won’t be getting the support they need at the time they need it the most.”

She says the impact of coronavirus has, for many people, exacerbated or led to challenging social circumstances that can affect mental health. “When we set up the service, there was an assumption made by us that it would be attended by people with serious mental illness, however in reality a good half of the people who come to us are people in distress because of things that have happened in their life and something has tipped them into feeling suicidal and like they can’t cope.

“It could be something to do with family, or housing, it could be domestic abuse, or a substance issue, financial worries. Often it’s lots of those things together, it’s the social issues, which link to high levels of deprivation as well, that lead to a lot of our clients getting in contact.

“That could be any of us. It doesn’t take much for something to spiral. In light of Covid, those issues are being experienced by more and more members of the community who might have been immune from them before.”

She continues: “Then of course the whole experience has been a hugely anxiety provoking situation. People who haven’t experienced anxiety before might be feeling very low, struggling to sleep and they may not have had the same coping mechanisms such as seeing friends and family.”

The Haven team includes trained peer support workers, who run one-to-one sessions with those attending and typically have lived experience of mental health difficulties themselves.

“I think a lot of people when they’re in distress really struggle with clinical services and feeling comfortable disclosing to and talking with social workers or nurses,” Kim explains. “We need those people but this offers an alternative in a setting where people often feel more comfortable.

“There’s a different power dynamic and a different level of empathy that comes from speaking to somebody who can say look I haven’t exactly been in your shoes but I have had these experiences. The hope that gives people that there can be a brighter future for them is really powerful.”

To support the fundraising appeal, visit* The Haven service is accessed by calling the ‘First Response’ helpline, operated by Bradford District Foundation Care Trust, on 01274 221181. People who call will have their needs assessed and will either receive direct support by the mental health trust or be supported to access other services such as Haven, which is open every day of the year between 10am and 6pm

"At Haven, they have a one-to-one session with a peer support worker, though this has been delivered by phone or video rather than face to face during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many people are then fine to go home with follow up, wraparound support.

*The children and young people’s safe space, and the night time adult service Sanctuary at Mind in Bradford can be accessed by the same phoneline.

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