Quite a day for Breathing Space. I remember quite clearly when it was launched in 2004. It had a very clear remit; one that would provide men aged between 16 and 40 with a service they could call in times of need. Suicide rates for young men at the time were very high, they still are, but now spread over a wider age group of men.
I do remember wondering what would happen if 1. Females phoned and 2. If men called who were not in that age bracket. The latter is harder to ascertain over the phone than the former of course! Calls if the first year of Breathing Space reached 15,693 and nearly doubled in 2005. Now they are at their second highest level since the service began; 75,410. There is clearly a need and it didn’t stay limited to men aged between 16 and 40 for long. The free service is also open to anyone living with a mental health problem or someone who is experiencing emotional distress such as low mood, anxiety or depression. It’s open in the evenings from 6pm – 2am and all weekend, when most people find that their mental wellbeing takes a nosedive. I have received calls to my work (Action on Depression) with some concerns about the service time, but given budgets and quality of service it really is best to have it open when it’s going to be most needed. I’m pretty sure it evaluates that these are indeed the best times to be open.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve spoken to people who have used it and gained nothing from it, to those who haven’t used it and wouldn’t use it, to those who don’t like calling helplines, to those who don’t like Breathing Space or the Samaritans. We can’t be so narrow-minded to think that this is the complete solution, because it isn’t. It’s about giving people choice. Enough of a mix of services that are fund-able and used, online, offline, small, medium, large, accessible, unusual, creative and even different..
I have worked with the Breathing Space and Samaritans as part of my role at Action on Depression. They do great work and we complement the work they do by doing what we can to support those experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, low-mood and their family and carers. Our focus is more early intervention and trying to reach people before they get to the point where they require the services of Breathing Space, Samaritans or another crisis service.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my time working in mental health, it’s that services come and go. They unfortunately go because of funding issues, but they are created too with new funding streams. Just the other day I heard about a new service in Lanarkshire called Hope Cafe. They officially launch on the 26th February 2014 as a pilot project. Here’s a little taster about what they’re going to be doing when they open.
From Wed 26th of February 2014 you will find us in Greyfriars Church Hall from 10am-2pm. We will operate on a Wednesday each week. On the day of the café there will be lots of self help information resources available and individuals using the café facilities will have the option of participating in various well-being groups such as arts & crafts/jewellery making/knit and natter . We will also be offering various activities such as Mindfullness, Relaxation Techniques, Laughter Yoga and much more. Pop in to the cafe to see what’s on the menu.
I wish them all the best on the day and I hope they go from strength to strength.