Night café on way for peo­ple who suf­fer from ‘dark mo­ments’

EX-MP ASKS FOR VOL­UN­TEERS AHEAD OF JAN­UARY OPEN­ING

Derby Telegraph - - NEWS - Zena.haw­ley@reach­plc.com

PEO­PLE with nowhere to turn when “dark mo­ments” strike in the mid­dle of the night will soon be able to visit a night café set up to help them.

For­mer Derby North MP Amanda Sol­loway, whose mother suf­fered from men­tal ill­ness which af­fected all of the fam­ily, will use her char­ity, Head­High, to set up Night Bus.

Mrs Sol­loway has been work­ing hard to set up a se­ries of ac­tiv­i­ties linked to her men­tal health char­ity that she feels will help peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness.

She said: “Dark mo­ments can strike any time but they al­ways seem worse in the night when there may be no-one to talk to. They can be trig­gered by life events such as be­reave­ment of a loved one or pet, di­vorce, and ill­ness, and can equally af­fect men and women.

“The ques­tion then be­comes, ‘Where can I go?’ and that’s where the night cafe comes in.”

The cafe, which is due to open at 10pm on Fri­day, Jan­uary 18, will be in St Martin’s com­mu­nity cen­tre in Flint Street, Al­len­ton.

Mrs Sol­loway said: “Be­fore we can open, we need to sign up vol­un­teers to help us at the night café. We are call­ing it the Night Bus be­cause, every­one in­volved is go­ing on a metaphor­i­cal jour­ney.

“Although our vol­un­teers will need to be trained we are not see­ing the cafe as a place of last re­sort but rather some­where that peo­ple can come to if a cri­sis threat­ens.

“Vol­un­teers will be trained to spot such things as drug abuse and po­ten­tial sui­cide but they will not be tak­ing the place of qual­i­fied coun­sel­lors.

“Vis­i­tors will be sure of a warm greet­ing. They will find them­selves in a safe en­vi­ron­ment and be able to re­lax and feel safe.”

The cen­tre, which is be­ing given free for the first six months, will be sup­ported by the Padley Cen­tre, Der­byshire Health­care Trust, and the Uni­ver­sity of Derby.

Mrs Sol­loway said: “How long we re­main open, and if it is ev­ery night, which I want it to be, will de­pend on the num­ber of vol­un­teers we get.

“We need the pro­fes­sional en­dorse­ment of or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Sa­mar­i­tans and GPs, so we are leav­ing leaflets ad­ver­tis­ing our­selves in a va­ri­ety of places.”

This time last year, Mrs Sol­loway was launch­ing an­other ven­ture aimed at peo­ple who are lonely or want to meet oth­ers.

It in­volves hold­ing a com­mu­nity meal on the last Fri­day of ev­ery month at the YMCA, Lon­don Road in Derby.

The event is spon­sored and com­pa­nies get in­volved in serv­ing food to be­tween 50 and 100 peo­ple.

Mrs Sol­loway said: “We get a wide va­ri­ety of peo­ple com­ing along and the food is just fan­tas­tic.”

The need to un­der­stand her mother’s men­tal ill­ness has driven Mrs Sol­loway’s creation of her char­ity and she wants to re­move the stigma from men­tal health.

She said: “I want all of us to be able to talk more openly about men­tal health is­sues, it re­ally is noth­ing to be ashamed of. I want to help those who are less for­tu­nate than my­self, who don’t have faith or be­lief in them­selves and just show them com­pas­sion and let them know they will get through.

“I know what it’s like to stand out­side build­ings alone, not dar­ing to go in. At the first com­mu­nity meal event, I had no idea how it would go and feared that no-one would come.

“Then I looked in the mir­ror, closed my eyes and took a deep breath, paused for a mo­ment and trusted in my faith. Peo­ple did come, and I felt very blessed.”

Mrs Sol­loway talked about men­tal ill­ness and its im­pact on fam­i­lies yes­ter­day when she was one of the guest speak­ers at a free Men­tal Health Aware­ness event hosted by Mid Der­byshire MP Pauline Latham at the Uni­ver­sity of Derby, at the En­ter­prise Cen­tre, in Bridge Street.

Any­one in­ter­ested in vol­un­teer­ing should con­tact 07494 519344.

Amanda Sol­loway

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