– and cen­tre’s vi­tal ser­vices are needed now more than ever

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Under The Umbrella -

For many peo­ple who visit the Can­ter­bury Um­brella Cen­tre, it rep­re­sents a car­ing fam­ily with­out which their lives could well have taken a turn for the worse.

Be­cause it is unique in the city in of­fer­ing com­pan­ion­ship and sup­port to the grow­ing num­ber in the area who suf­fer men­tal health is­sues and lone­li­ness.

Yet the char­ity faces its own on­go­ing fight to main­tain the vi­tal ser­vice af­ter cuts in pub­lic fund­ing left it re­ly­ing in­creas­ingly on lo­cal busi­nesses and gen­er­ous in­di­vid­u­als to help meet run­ning costs.

With­out it, vis­i­tors like for­mer univer­sity stu­dent Tim Jack­son, who bat­tles with de­pres­sion, may well not be here.

The gui­tar-play­ing 28-year-old, who stud­ied drama and me­dia, once at­tempted sui­cide and says the cen­tre and its staff and vol­un­teers are help­ing him on his road to re­cov­ery.

“This place has saved my life and helped me be­come bet­ter. It’s given me sta­bil­ity and I have made new friends and re­ally look for­ward to com­ing here,” he said.

One of those new friends is Sam Mousoli, 30, who is bipo­lar and suf­fers with anx­i­ety.

Yet his mood is lifted ev­ery time he walks through the door of the drop-in cen­tre in St Peter’s Place.

“I know I would be in a far worse place with­out it,” he says. “Ev­ery­one is nice, no­body judges you and we look out for each other.”

They are among 150 peo­ple of all ages and from all back­grounds, in­clud­ing stu­dents, who visit ev­ery week and ben­e­fit from the sup­port it of­fers in help­ing clients cope with their is­sues.

They also have the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop new skills like cook­ery and en­hance their life op­por­tu­ni­ties through adult ed­u­ca­tion classes and em­ploy­ment sup­port.

It is also work­ing in a pi­lot scheme with the Univer­sity of Kent to help stu­dents with men­tal health is­sues who are strug­gling and feel iso­lated, of­ten a long way away from their fam­i­lies.

There are five full-time staff and around 25 vol­un­teers, like re­tired art teacher like Diana Jack­son who has been help­ing at the cen­tre since 2012.

“I just find it in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing. Art helps clients for­get their prob­lems and is very ther­a­peu­tic.”

The char­ity was founded more than 30 years ago, orig­i­nally at the city’s Methodist Church, by Rita Jones to help pa­tients dis­charged into the com­mu­nity fol­low­ing the clo­sure of St Au­gus­tine’s Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal at Chartham.

This year it cel­e­brated its 25th an­niver­sary at its pur­pose-built home in St Peter’s Place.


Can­ter­bury Um­brella cen­tre man­ager Anna De-brauwer

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