A GROUP of young people has helped members of a Chester mental health charity to spruce up their centre by painting and donating equipment.
Twenty-three youngsters from the National Citizen Service – an organisation for 16 to 17-year-olds who want to build skills for work and for life – spent a day at the Chester Plus Centre, at The Mount, in Boughton.
They painted the walls and donated a number of items to help the centre to give peer-led support to people with mental health needs.
The youngsters handed over a gazebo, some cooking equipment, a CD player and a freezer, paid for from the proceeds of a coffee morning they held last week to raise funds for the centre.
Team leader Nikki Lewis said: “We have been looking at homelessness in Chester and we found Chester Plus as a result. We thought it was fantastic because we can make a real difference here.”
Chester Plus is a peer-led support centre for people with mental health problems.
The group holds drop-in sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays to give people struggling with mental health issues a place to go where they can speak to people who have had problems in the past.
One of the volunteers, Dave, said he struggled with his own mental health problems and addictions when he became homeless at the age of 16, adding many people who use the service now have similar problems.
He said: “I had anxiety problems, struggled with depression, homelessness, alcoholism and I was a drug user.
“That became my normal life. I was destined to die in that life but an organisation came into my life and started to give me morals and a code to live by which I had lost on the streets.
“I had lost all self-respect but someone who came to me knew where I came from and I started to respect him and he respected me and I gained his trust. I could then battle the disease that is addiction.”
Dave says Chester Plus offers an alternative to the more traditional ways of helping people overcome their mental health problems by offering listening ears of people who have been through similar things.
He says the charity works with a lot of homeless people as they often have mental health problems coupled with addictions to drugs and/or alcohol which means they often cannot get the right help they need from traditional social service interventions.
Another volunteer and trustee, Julie, said she had lost her job due to mental illness.
She said: “I came in as someone who used this group. Through my mental health I lost my job. Thanks to my experiences I decided I wanted to go back to work as a mental health nurse and I have just qualified.
“Everyone here brings different experiences to the group and we all support each other. If it wasn’t for this group, then I wouldn’t be able to go back to work and stay in work.”
See full story in the Chester Leader