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Don’t Lose Hope: a free and affordable professional counselling service for all members of the community

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, we are shining a spotlight on a charity that is close to our hearts, Don’t Lose Hope – a small charity based in Bourne, Lincolnshire run by Nicola and Dom Brister.

The charity offers professional counselling services for all members of the community from the age of four upwards. Their services are free to families and individuals who receive certain state benefits, and they have affordable options for others in the community.

Why was Don’t Lose Hope formed?

While working as a school counsellor, Nicola saw many children and young people she was helping also had families who needed support as a whole unit. Don’t Lose Hope was therefore set up to offer vital counselling and support services for all ages.

Nicola also sadly suffered bereavement as a teenager, after her grandfather died by suicide, so her mission is to also try and help prevent even one family from going through the same trauma she did.

How many people access services from Don’t Lose Hope?

Nicola, Dom and their team of qualified and experienced counsellors ran 5,000 sessions in 2021, of which half were free. On average they support 120 people through their centre a week, including 50 in schools, up to 50 in their community garden and approximately 40 through their support groups, night light Café and listening service.

Who typically seeks support?

Don’t Lose Hope help children and young people who do not meet the criteria for the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) – an NHS service – and others from low-income families, if their parents are unable to access private support for them. However, support is also available to a broader range of people in the community of all ages.

How has the pandemic impacted people?

Nicola, Dom and the team have seen a huge increase in people seeking support over the last two years, especially from children and young people. So much so they are struggling to keep up and waiting times are getting longer. However, this has inspired them to expand their services and hopefully be able to offer around 200 sessions per week.

So, why is Don’t Lose Hope also important to ILX Group?

In 2019 our colleague Andy West sadly lost his son, Niall, to the most common cause of death in young men – suicide.

It is widely reported that male suicide accounts for over 70% of suicides in the UK, and, also as Andy experienced, people who take their own lives often ‘seemingly’ feel happy on the outside, are in employment, and have family and friends.

How did Don’t Lose Hope support Andy?

In February 2020, Nicola established a support group for three families in Bourne who had also suffered the loss of a child to suicide. They met twice along with two counsellors whose role was to help them talk and share as a group. As well as their counselling services,

Don’t Lose Hope also have their Community Garden and innovative “man shed”, which is open seven days a week.

Prior to lockdown, Don’t Lose Hope had been given access to a piece of land which they wanted to use to build a man shed – a place where people could go and give a hand, do some work and more importantly talk to someone as they did so. Men can often struggle to talk and open up, so Andy thought this was a great idea and feels it might have also been a help for Niall too, if it had existed at the time.

The Community Garden and man shed is supported by volunteers with a range of events for specific groups, but anyone is welcome to visit.

On Remembrance Sunday last year, the garden had a barbeque so attendees of the parade could get a bacon or sausage roll and drink whilst they wandered around the garden. Don’t Lose Hope ran this event to specifically engage with current and ex-service personnel, who may have had feelings of isolation or anxiety, so they could find the garden and engage with people on the day or in the future. Learn more about the Community Garden and shed, including opening times here.

What can you do if you are worried about someone?

Often people may seem ‘ok’ on the outside, but in reality, they could be dealing with many different mental health issues and anxieties or are struggling to cope with day-to-day life.

You can find guidance from Samaritans if you or someone you are worried about is feeling suicidal, and some signs to look out for include:

  • Feelings of restlessness, agitation, anger, aggression and/or tearfulness
  • Being tired or lacking energy
  • Not wanting to talk, be with people or do the things they usually enjoy
  • Not replying to messages or being distant.

You can also look out for certain situations, such as:

  • Loss, including loss of a family member or friend
  • Relationship and family problems
  • Housing problems
  • Financial worries
  • Job-related stress
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • University, college or school related pressures.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with anything raised in this blog, Don’t Lose Hope are available to people who can reach them Bourne, Lincolnshire, find out more here.

You can also find support and guidance from Samaritans here.

Learn more about our charitable work here. And you can also donate to both of our charities via our Just Giving page.

Sign up to our webinar ‘Understanding and overcoming Anxiety and Loneliness’ on Thursday 9 June 2022 from 12pm to 1pm (BST) here.

Read the rest in our series of blogs:

The global pandemic and the impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing

How ILX Group is raising awareness and supporting employees