Stonehouse’s first-ever mental health hub will be opening in January thanks to the Trust Jack Foundation (TJF). Located in Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire, the charity aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, promote awareness and provide support and help to young people suffering from a mental illness.
With funding to keep them open for the next 12 months, they will be running a variety of workshops and support groups. After setting out to predominately help young people they realised that older age groups needed help as well, and now provide support to adults, parents, carers and guardians.
The foundation was created in memory of a young man called Jack Hastie. At the age of 18, Jack sadly took his own life. After struggling with his mental health for a number of years, Jack was more or less brushed off by GP’s.
Numerous visits to the doctors with his mum – Helen Mitchell – all concluded in the same result, Jack was too young to be suffering from a mental illness, he was just a boy and a typical teenager. By the age of 15, Jack had started self-medicating and his mental health deteriorated rapidly from 16 to 18. By age 18, Jack had taken his own life.
Feeling so alone as a parent afterwards, Jack’s mum wanted to help other people who were going through similar things. Honouring his memory, Helen started running support groups with a couple of friends and then registered the charity the Trust Jack Foundation.
She believes that if Jack got the support he needed then he might have had an easier time coping. Aiming to support young people before they start tampering with drugs and alcohol, the charity acknowledges the vicious cycle. When you suffer from bad mental health and take drugs, you always tend to go back because it makes you feel good.
The grand opening in January will see a wide variety of support available, Helen spoke about some running projects: “We’ll separate the two rooms, so we can have two groups at the same time. For example, we’ll have a creche for parents that don’t have childminders. We’ve got an art therapy group and we’ve got an upcoming course with a makeup artist coming in to teach girls how to do their makeup.
“We’re going to have a men-only mental health group. We’ve applied for funding to create a youth group for young people with a mental health illness. It’ll be like any other youth groups, but they’ll be accepted in it, so they can talk about things like going to CAMHS, seeing the psychologist, their medication, it could be their depression, their anxiety.
“We’re going to have two groups, one for the boys and one for the girls – with our full intention being to integrate them at some point and continue on like this. They’re called the Nova B and the Nova G – Nova stands for a star that’s shining brightly.
“One day a week we’ll have the hub club which is a drop in for the youth of Stonehouse. It’s just to get them off the streets. They can come in and play games and hang out and do whatever they want. If they want someone to talk to they’ll have someone to talk to. The other one is the hub club cubs for the primary school guys. We’ll play games and stuff with the little ones. “
These are the main groups that will be running through the year, and the charity also plans to have a day club called the Knit and Knatter. As well as this, they hope to run a drop in through the day for the people of Stonehouse as there is a lot of lonely and isolated people out there. Once a month the charity will team up with the Old Folks’ Homes for a coffee morning and the residents who are capable of coming down can pop in for a chat.
The Trust Jack Foundation do a lot of their own funding through sponsored walks, stalls at gala days and other events such as their annual comedy night. Helen said: “We have an annual comedy night every year because Jack was into his comedy. He was a very funny guy and could play a part in Still Game. Lee Evans was his ultimate.
“But Jack really hid behind all of that. We got to see the real Jack at home but then he put his mask on and he went out and had a joke. People didn’t see that side of him, the side of him unable to get himself out of bed in the morning. Unfortunately, he decided his time was up. It was his decision to make – I respect that. I don’t need to agree with it. But I respect it. “
The government policy at the moment does not do enough to protect young people and look after their mental health. They’re talking about injecting money into mental health resources, but no one is seeing this money. The target for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in South Lanarkshire is 18 weeks, at the moment CAMHS isn’t meeting this criteria and it is sitting at 22 – 26 weeks.
Furthermore, the criteria to get approved help from CAMHS is always changing because of cutbacks. Parents are taking their children to the doctors, they’re opening up to be told that their symptoms aren’t severe enough to receive help. And if you’re lucky enough to be approved by a GP, you’ll get a letter in three weeks telling you that you’re on an 18-week waiting list.
The implications of opening up about your mental health struggles and being told you need to wait up to five months before you receive help can be fatal. A survey by Young Minds found that while on the CAHMS waiting list, 76% of children deteriorate.
The Trust Jack Foundation like to see themselves as a stepping stone. In that 18 – 26 weeks you can go to them and they’ll provide support and help. Helen said: “Sometimes we’ve had young people who’ve waited on CAMHS and by the time they’re there, they haven’t needed as much help as what they might have done. We’re here to give them someone to talk to, someone to listen to them and someone to believe them.
“It’s such an eye opener that there are people out there going through what I went through all they years ago. It’s not got any better whatsoever. We’re getting mums and dads coming to us saying they’ve been to the GP and they’ve been told to get a hobby. When you have no motivation to lift your head from the pillow, you’re not going to go to the gym – you’re not even going to get out of bed.”
With parents seeking help on a regular basis because they feel like they’re not getting any support, the Trust Jack Foundation say their ultimate aim is to prevent suicide. Helen continued: “I know that feeling, the feeling so alone and feeling like I’d done something wrong, the feeling of losing your child to suicide. If I could prevent one more mum, one family going through that then it would have been worth it.”
A great initiative and the first of its kind in Stonehouse, the Trust Jack Foundation will bring so much to the local community. Providing support for people who need it, the charity won Health and Wellbeing Organisation of the Year 2018. Expanding their work, the opening of Jack’s Hub represents the hard work and achievement of the charity so far.