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How Glossopdale is supporting Mental Health Awareness Week
Friday 12th May 2017 @ 15:59 by Adam Higgins

A partnership of Glossop’s third sector groups who spend all year helping people to improve their mental wellbeing are supporting Mental Health Awareness Week this week.

They are joining in with the message that we should be encouraging people to thrive rather than just survive if they are one of the 25 per cent of the adult UK population who will experience a mental health problem in any given year.

According to national charity, the Mental Health Foundation, “too many of us experience daily life as a battle and, emotionally, our heads are only just above water.”

They go on to warn: “Holding onto our jobs, managing our family life, paying our bills sometimes threaten to overwhelm us.”

With the estimated costs of mental health problems in the UK between £70 and £100 billion each year and the human cost measured in family break-up, hospital admissions and suicide the work being done by small, local, often voluntary groups is crucial and in Glossop we are lucky to have more than a few such groups.

In January this year, Glossop-based WellFit Health and Wellbeing CIC, rebranded as Be Well to recognize that, while they primarily use physical activity in their weekly sessions, they are really in the business of building wellbeing.

Mick Owen, who runs the company, uses himself as an example of how regular social, physical activity can help with low mental health.

Active: Be Well’s director Mick Owen (right) getting stuck in to a game of Walking Football

He said: “Between October last year and February this I lost something like 50 per cent of my already failing hearing and, along with it, a huge chunk of the confidence I need to do my job and live my life. The isolating effect of deafness, which like poor mental health is an “invisible disability”, caused me to withdraw into myself, suffer low mood and experience anxiety.

“Luckily for me I was able to rejoin the Walking Football sessions which Be Well deliver at both Glossop Leisure Centre and Glossopdale Community College’s 3G in Hadfield and the combination of physical activity and friendly acceptance offered by the men in both groups started me back on an upward spiral.”

The ethos of Be Well’s programme is that people should only do what they are physically comfortable with and that ability is unimportant.

As Mick says “Proper Walking Football has more in common with the playground than the Premier League and the same is true for our Walking Netball, Walking Rounders and Curling sessions. It’s only the taking part that matters.”

Run Leader Helen Thornhill, whose programme of school-gate runs is targeted at women with families, also has personal experience of the power of regular exercise to help individuals under pressure to thrive.

Four years ago she lost her father, grandmother and sister in rapid succession and struggled to deal with everyday life. She took up running and found the release of endorphins into her system provided a natural antidote to depression and anxiety.

Ladies: Helen Thornhill (far right) and some of the Mums Run regulars in Glossop’s Manor Park recently

She said: “30 per cent of people with a long-term physical health problem also had a mental health problem and 46 per cent of people with a mental health problem also had problems with their physical health; you can’t separate the two. It makes sense that being more active will improve your mental health and we see the evidence every day on our runs.”

Helen is full of stories of women who bless the day they found the Be Well Mums Run programme and quotes 40-year-old, mother of two Caroline who says of her morning run: “Going for a run with the group after I drop the boys at school totally clears my mind and puts me back on track with my emotions.

“It’s a bit of me-time and a huge stress release for me. I feel totally free, like a bird. It gives me much needed head space and I forget about my stressful home life. I see countryside I don’t normally appreciate and I hear the birds, which totally grounds me.”

Glossop Arts for Wellbeing are known for the fantastic annual Art in the Window project but every week they help many local people find therapeutic and creative ways to express themselves in a supportive and friendly context.

Sonja Quirk, the driving force behind the project, explained: “People don’t have to be good at art, it is about self-expression and the chance to create something in a friendly inclusive environment. The sessions offer escapism, creativity and freedom to people from all ages, abilities and all walks of life and there is a real need for a project like ours in Glossop and for some people these sessions have become a lifeline.”

The idea that physical activity or harnessing your creativity can be a “lifeline” might seem far-fetched but gardeners the world over will attest to the power of putting the two together.

Wheels in motion: Liz Johnson and her daughter Lily on the way to the allotment

New to the area in 2015, keen gardener Liz Johnson was struggling to find her feet and with a major illness slowing her down she became isolated and felt quite low.

With no garden to speak of in her new home she was pleased to discover that Glossop Action for Allotments (GAFA) was opening up its new Dinting Lane site and, in partnership with a neighbour who shared her horticultural interests, applied to become an allotment holder.

She said: “When GAFA approved our application we got very excited and wanted to get on the plot and start digging straight away. As soon as we put a spade in the ground I felt better and with the site being brand new there was a great sense that everybody up there was sharing a voyage of discovery, an adventure.

“The physical work, the being part of a community, the joy of growing and the opportunity to share it all with my four-year-old have really helped my Wellbeing and I have even volunteered with the new Community Allotment project, just at the other end of the Dinting Lane site, and will be managing their social media to help get more people experiencing the benefits of gardening on an allotment.”

In unison: The Let’s Sing Choir are one of many groups who encourage wellbeing across Glossopdale

Bringing the community together is one of the themes of local singing teacher Eleanor Mottershead’s Let’s Sing Choir, which meets every Monday in The Oakwood pub.

She said: “There are many mental health benefits associated with singing, including stress reduction, better breathing, body relaxation, and, of course, the rush of endorphins, leaving a singer with the feel-good factor. We want to bring the community together and offer a relaxed atmosphere in order to encourage more people to get the benefits of singing.”

But when it comes to bringing diverse parts of the community together to raise wellbeing and combat poor mental health, Be Well’s youngest member of staff Vicky Murphy is leading the line.

In recent months she has supported Dukes Café to make their monthly “Sunday Service” social eating experiment using surplus food a reality.

Together: An intergenerational trip to Masson Mill boosted the spirits of Glossopdale folk young and old

Vicky has also linked up Gamesley Early Excellence Centre with Cornmill House sheltered accommodation on an Autumn Walk, a Christmas Nativity and an Easter Egg Hunt and worked with young men at risk of exclusion from education to research Glossop’s industrial past before they joined a party of older people on a fact-finding trip to Masson Mill in Matlock, an outing which raised everybody’s wellbeing and put a smile on faces old and young.

Mick added: “Feeling happier will make you healthier and vice versa and that works for communities as well as individuals.

“The communities of Glossop are very lucky to have so many small, local organizations looking out for their Wellbeing and Mental Health Awareness Week seems like the perfect time for people to take the first step towards thriving not surviving and contact one of them. You’ll be made very welcome, rest assured.”


Main picture:

Wellbeing: Sonja Quirk (back left) and a colleague delivering a Hands On GAP session