September 3, 2021 5.19 pm This story is over 32 months old

Lincoln mental health hub “saved our lives”

A successful first year under community ownership

People using a mental health hub in Lincoln have spoken about how it saved their lives, a year after it was purchased by a community benefit society.

Involve@Lincoln offers a range of services to help improve people’s mental health. It was saved from closure after it was bought from Lincolnshire County Council by volunteers for £216,000, so it is now owned by local shareholders including the service users.

An open day was held on Friday, September 3 to celebrate the first year under the society’s ownership and the completion of refurbishment, including new doors, ramp and patio for the cafe and general structural work.

Involve@Lincoln has around 40 volunteers and three paid members of staff and runs several services including a peer support mental health group called Renew, Lincoln Trauma Centre, and Mint Lane Cafe, which uses surplus supermarket food to help the local community.

Other organisations who run from the building include Bipolar UK, Beat It Social Isolation befriending service, Circles (prevention of sexual crime), Alcoholics Anonymous, Be Kind (support for borderline personality disorders and complex PTSD), bereavement service Cruse, and more.

Kim East and Mark Robertson said Involve@Lincoln, and in particular the Renew support group, helped to save their lives. | Photo: The Lincolnite

Kim East, 68, has been coming to the building since it was run by social and health services over 30 years ago.

He told The Lincolnite: “I have been brought up with mental illness but this place has helped save me. I have had mental health issues and my mum was schizophrenic and had to be sectioned.

“I suffered from anxiety and depression, and was brought up by my mother who said I should’ve been a girl so I have gender issues.

“Renew has made a heck of a load of difference. We share the empathy of fellow members suffering from mental health problems and are now more involved with the decision making.

“They’ve been very supportive and understanding, and very open minded. I am now in a happier place mentally. I attend every day, mainly the social group Renew which has given me support and friendships.”

John Dwane, 65, said “without this place I might have ended up in hospital”.

John, who has Schizoaffective disorder, has used the service on and off for many years, and also now facilitates the Lincoln Bipolar UK support group which runs from the building.

John Dwane facilities the Lincoln Bipolar UK support group at Involve@Lincoln. | Photo: The Lincolnite

He said:”In the last 18 months it has been a big help. My mental health wouldn’t be as good as it is now without being able to come to Renew. It has been a lifesaver.”

Mark Robertson, 69, has used the service for 10 years after a breakdown caused by losing his wife. He has suffered with bipolar and said: “Mental illness is all in your head. You need to get it out in the open and talk about it, which this has helped me to do.”

Fiona Fraser, 61, joined Renew in 2014 after being brought there by a mental health trainer. She has been seeing psychiatrists since aged 5 when she was mute and as an adult she attempt suicide on multiple occasions, but Involve has helped her turn her life around.

She said: “Instead of being stuck in four walls isolated, you don’t have to explain yourself here. There is that empathy with others here who have been through mental health.

“We socialise together and look out for each other. It has helped save me and since I joined I have had no more suicide attempts.”

Deputy Manager CJ Drinkall, Chair of Involve@Lincoln Martha Vahl, and Centre Manager Michelle Freeman. | Photo: The Lincolnite

Centre Manager Michelle Freeman runs Involve@Lincoln with Deputy Manager CJ Drinkall and Cafe Operations Manager Carly Brookes.

Michelle said: “It’s brilliant because we’re in a much better financial situation than we are and are able to also support to smaller groups that weren’t able to before.

“We can keep the rents down and put more into the services, and it is benefitting the community a lot more.”

Martha Vahl, Chair of Involve@Lincoln, said: “It is brilliant that we’ve completed the refurbishment programme, now have more staff, and we’re all back up and running. It’s all going really well and we are continually developing new groups to help support people further.”