At the very least, mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people during their lives, but recent estimates place it much higher as 2 out of 3. Although Kent is in many ways very affluent, there are definite pockets of economic deprivation and our office itself is based in a recognised area of this kind. In our experience, a major part of the healing process is the simple act of being listened to and heard. Take Off works for better physical and mental health and we recognise the two are intrinsically linked. Furthermore, we are aware of the link between mental health problems and economic hardship, which also bring social isolation and lack of occupation and purpose.
Whilst we can’t resolve people’s economic difficulties, we do have a belief that mental ill-health hates two things: oxygen and friendship. This is therefore what we seek to provide as both these things take the problems from inside the head to the outside; while not necessarily removing them completely they do become easier to live with and they lose their hold over us. To this end, we are 100% user led, believing that people who’ve themselves come through the problems are best placed to help those currently afflicted. We run entirely on the peer support model and most of our services take the form of self-help groups, which are either “talking” or “doing” focused.
In the former, we enable people to explore their conditions together and in the latter, we provide creative activity to enjoy. The intention is that the “doing” groups also enable people to share experiences but with a positive distraction. This makes social interaction easier (see our groups for full details on our self-help groups and activities).
Although mental health problems don’t discriminate on the basis of wealth, gender or ethnicity being surrounded by economic affluence can emphasise hardship. Our services now run throughout East Kent thanks to our successful corroboration with Live Well Kent. Mental health problems inevitably incorporate many other demographic backgrounds including ex-services, ex-offenders, substance use, ethnicity, single parent families, domestic violence and physical disability.
Take Off provides ready-made social networks and also provide other peer support services as needed. When a need is identified, we will endeavour to design, develop and deliver a service to fill that void. We have a large group of sessional workers spread across East Kent. We believe peer support is a significant part of our recovery process and therefore has an economic value. Our peer workers are paid the living wage per hour and whilst we are not anti volunteering we actively encourage those interested to train with us and join our workforce. This provides employment for a traditionally unemployable group, which enables people with lived experience of a mental health problem to make good use of it to help others.