'Life-saving' Gainsborough mental health programme saved

Brian Ward , Natalie East, Cat Paton and Nathan Jones.
Brian Ward , Natalie East, Cat Paton and Nathan Jones.

A pioneering mental health programme in Gainsborough, which has helped hundreds of people living with complex mental health problems, has been saved from closure.

The Pathways to Wellness programme, based at the Riverside Access Training Centre, was facing an uncertain future after its usual sources of funding dried up.

After hearing about their plight, Stallard Kane Associates Ltd, which provides training and advice on health and safety, HR and employment law to companies across the UK, decided to step in and fund the project until a longer-term solution can be found.

As well as paying for the service to continue, the staff at Stallard Kane Associates Ltd have also refurbished one of the rooms at the centre on Market Street to provide a more private and welcoming space.

Director Nathan Jones said: “This programme and the team that work here don’t just help people improve their self-esteem or learn new skills – they save lives.

“Many of the people who access the service are at crisis point and have nowhere else to turn – there is nothing else like this in the county.

“When we found out it was at risk of closing, we just had to do something as we know how vital this service is to so many people.”

The Pathways to Wellness programme offers one-to-one counselling, support and training to anyone aged from 18 to 64 who is suffering from a wide range of issues including anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

Team Leader Catriona Paton said she was overwhelmed by the response she got when people heard the programme was closing.

She said: “We are so thankful to Stallard Kane Associates Ltd for funding the programme as we received over 30 letters from people in desperate situations saying they didn’t know how they would survive.

"But it’s not just about saving lives; programmes like ours also save the NHS millions of pounds every year. Most of the people we see are suffering from unresolved trauma and have complex issues which take years to treat.”

It supports over 150 people every year and is run by a small team of staff and volunteers, the majority of whom have ‘lived experience’ and have suffered mental health issues in the past.

One of the programme volunteers Natalie East, aged 26, was referred to the programme herself six years ago and until recently was still receiving support from Catriona and the team.

She now mentors other clients and gives advice on related issues such as housing, debt management or substance misuse.

“When I first visited the centre, I was unemployed and had fallen in with the wrong crowd. I had mental health issues, behavioural problems and learning disabilities which had not been diagnosed,” explained Natalie.

“I’d really struggled at school and left without any qualifications so as well as having one-to- one counselling sessions with Cat, I was able to take Functional Skills courses in Maths and English.

“Since then I’ve done lots of courses to improve my employability and my health and well- being.

“I can honestly say this programme has been a lifeline – without it I’d probably be in prison or dead.”

Fellow volunteer Brian Ward, aged 36, who also runs the centre’s food bank, agreed: “I was a different person when I first came here four years ago. I’d not long been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder and my self-esteem and confidence were shot to pieces.

“The team has made me realise that nothing stays bad forever and taught me how to cope with my illness and the everyday struggles that come with it. Initially I hated other people but now I’m happy to help anyone.”

Centre Manager Damon Parkinson says they’re now looking for other long-term sources of funding and hopes that eventually they will be able to extend the programme.

“We’re so grateful to Stallard Kane Associates Ltd for keeping this service going but we can’t rely on their generosity forever,” he said. “We’d like to do something similar in Lincoln, but we just don’t have the money. I’m hoping if we can put a case together the government or the NHS will want to support the programme and see this as a model that could be rolled out nationwide.”