June 28, 2021 8.25 am

Night Light Cafe boss turned twin towers trauma into passion for helping with mental health

The 10 cafes in Lincoln helping people in crisis with mental health

A woman who witnessed the second plane hit the twin towers in New York in 2001 has turned her traumatic experience into a passion to help the mental health of others, prompting her to become the project co-ordinator for the Night Light Cafe service in Lincoln.

Stacey Marriott was on the roof of a building a few miles away from the World Trade Center and saw the tragic events unfold. It triggered trauma and is something that has stayed with her forever, especially on the September 11 anniversaries, but she is determined to help others find hope for the future.

Night Light Cafe was born out of conversations in the Health & Wellbeing subgroup in Greater Lincoln Active Faith Network, which is now called Transform Lincoln. Stacey had come across the concept being used in Leeds and strived to see if something similar could be set up in Lincoln.

Inside the Night Light Cafe at Bridge Central on Portland Street. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Stacey (left) opened up about how she has turned her traumatic experience into a passion for helping others. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The Night Light Cafe service was launched across 10 locations in Lincoln from March 2020, with the most recent opening at St Giles Methodist Church on Addison Drive in February this year.

The service exists to provide a listening ear and some evening company for people who are experiencing a crisis with their mental health, as well as serving hot and cold drinks and other refreshments.

It is run by ACTS Trust in partnership with local churches, who provide the venues, and it is funded by NHS England, the King’s Fund.

The latest figures show that since the service launched, it has supported 323 people across its network. It has received 1,019 phone calls and there have been 715 attendances at 10 cafes. There have also been 224 diversions, where people have used the service instead of attending A&E or other crisis services.

Giving people somewhere safe to go and someone to sit alongside to help with their mental health issues. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

A quiet room at the Night Light Cafe on Portland Street. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The Night Light Cafe service has over 100 volunteers across its network. They are not mental health professionals, but receive training in mental health first aid and suicide prevention. Eighteen psychology students from Bishop Grosseteste University are currently doing placements with the service.

Anyone wanting to use the service is advised to book ahead, but can just turn up if that is the only option. To book in people can call 0300 011 1200 or message the service via Facebook or Instagram.

The cafes are open from 4pm-midnight Monday to Friday, and 8pm-midnight at the weekend, as per the below timetable:

The timetable for the 10 Night Light Cafe locations in Lincoln.

Stacey and Sian sat inside the Night Light Cafe on Portland Street in Lincoln. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The LIncolnite

Stacey, 40, told The Lincolnite: “I went from feeling in despair and not wanting to be alive to living a happy fulfilled life. I am passionate about helping others find hope for the future.

“Due to my own experience of mental health problems, it was clear there was a need for it (Night Light Cafe Service). Often when people are struggling out of hours, and when their GP is closed, they may not know where to go and this gives them somewhere safe and someone to sit alongside.

“I was in New York and saw 9/11 unfold and it gave me a lot of trauma and caused a breakdown a year later. In 2002, I wasn’t very well, but my supportive family and friends got me through it.

“It left me feeling passionate about helping people who may not have that support network. We’ve had to manage numbers more at the cafe due to COVID, but we have been having a lot of phone calls from people who feel isolated and their anxiety is higher.”

The service exists to provide a listening ear and some evening company for people who are experiencing a crisis with their mental health. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Church Pastor Sian Wade believes the role of the church in the project and helping with mental health is massive. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The cafes are all hosted by church buildings or owned by churches in Lincoln. Sian Wade, a Church Pastor who oversees the church buildings on Portland Street and Newark Road, said: “The role of the church is massive. The church is designed to be a light in a dark place, spiritually and emotionally, so it makes sense for it to be involved.”

Bridge Central on Portland Street is one of 10 locations in Lincoln hosting a Night Light Cafe service. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The Night Light Cafe service is hoping to get more funding in place next year to allow it to take on more volunteers and add extra cafes to the network.

The service also works with various authorities, including Lincolnshire Police, City of Lincoln Council and Lincolnshire County Council, as well as the ambulance service and the crisis team at the Peter Hodgkinson Centre.

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