Can Safe Havens Curb Mental health crisis ?

A Search for Solutions: Can Mental Health Hubs Address Rising Suicide Rates? 

The North East of England grapples with an alarming mental health crisis, evidenced by its tragically high suicide rates and the increasing strain placed on police resources. To address this pressing issue, a local charity is launching a new initiative: walk-in "safe havens" designed as a refuge for those in need of immediate support. 

The Importance of Accessible Resources 

Anne, a woman in her 50s who attends an anxiety support group in Wallsend, shares her powerful story of reaching out to a crisis line during a particularly dark period. Isolated by lockdown restrictions and feeling overwhelmed, Anne found vital help through this resource. Now, in addition to the crisis line, she finds comfort and community at the support group. Her experience highlights the life-changing potential of easily accessible mental health support services. 

The charity Everyturn, which already collaborates with the NHS in providing crisis support over the phone, intends to establish physical safe havens within the region. As CEO Adam Crampsie explains, the goal is to offer a welcoming space for individuals to seek help before they reach a point where hospitalization may become necessary. Emphasizing the severity of the problem, he advocates for a significant expansion of such centers, highlighting that every prevented suicide represents considerable economic savings and, more importantly, the preservation of precious lives. 

Mental health crisis


Understanding Mental Health Crises 

The NHS recognizes a mental health crisis as a situation where a person is unable to manage their emotions or circumstances. Such crises can have diverse triggers, including intense distress, suicidal thoughts, delusions, or debilitating anxiety. 

Where to Turn for Help 

If you are facing a mental health crisis, reaching out for immediate help is crucial. Options include: 

  • Consulting your GP: Your doctor is a starting point and can direct you to suitable services. 
  • National Mental Health Helplines: These lines operate around the clock, offering confidential support and guidance. 
  • Samaritans: This organization provides a free, non-judgmental listening ear 24/7 
  • A&E: In severe crises, especially if there is a risk of self-harm or harm to others, the hospital emergency department is an option. 

Seeking Help: The Challenges Faced 

Unfortunately, even for individuals like Anne who know where to turn during a crisis, navigating the complex system can be overwhelming. Ray, from Northumberland, shares his gratitude for receiving a supportive home visit from the local crisis team, which ultimately led to voluntary hospitalization. He emphasizes the profound difference compassionate care can make in a time of vulnerability. 

However, the current system is far from perfect. Police forces report a dramatic rise in mental health-related callouts, illustrating a shortfall in available resources. Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness underscores the inappropriateness of police officers serving as a primary response to mental health emergencies. She advocates for dedicated mental health support services to alleviate the burden on police and to provide individuals in crisis with specialized care tailored to their needs. 

The Vision for Mental Health Hubs 

The new mental health "safe havens" aim to bridge this gap. Scheduled for an initial launch in Ashington later this month, the first center, named The Bothy, will offer walk-in support daily from midday until late evening. Crucially, these hubs will address various practical and social factors that can trigger or exacerbate mental distress, including: 

  • Financial worries 
  • Employment issues 
  • Housing problems 
  • Relationship difficulties 
  • Social isolation 

Moreover, The Bothy will double as a community space, hosting groups like the men's support group "What's the Craic." Les Welsh, a Blyth boxing coach who leads this group, expresses optimism that the new safe haven will be embraced by the community. He envisions it as a place where individuals, often suffering silently, can share their burdens and find solutions – a space that fosters hope and provides actionable support. 

Controversies and Alternative Solutions 

However, the introduction of safe havens has not been met with universal approval. Eddie Dean, who founded the charity Anxious Minds, champions an alternative approach focused on securing direct funding for established community projects. His organization, which provides therapy to those like Anne, operates without regular NHS support despite its success and the consistent referrals it receives from NHS services. He argues that investment in proven programs like Anxious Minds would ensure the sustainability of effective mental health support in the long term. 

Funding Complex Needs 

The North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board defends the funding of the safe haven project. Levi Buckley, an executive area director for the Board, maintains that the primary goal is to provide proactive support accessible to those in need, ultimately aiming to reduce pressure on emergency services like A&E. He adds that these walk-in hubs can address the underlying social issues contributing to crises while offering swift links to specialized services when required. 

Back at the Anxious Minds support group, Anne reflects on the importance of having options. While she questions whether she personally would have visited a safe haven during her darkest moments, she acknowledges the value of such spaces for those desperately seeking help. For her, the most crucial element is the simple act of being heard – the sense of connection that can be a lifeline. 

Essential Resources: Where to Find Help 

While the North East works to address its mental health crisis, it's vital for those in need to know where to seek immediate support. Here are some key resources: 

  • Your GP: Your General Practitioner is a valuable first point of contact. They can assess your needs and connect you with appropriate mental health services within your community. 
  • NHS urgent mental health helplines: These 24/7 crisis lines are staffed by trained professionals who offer confidential support, guidance, and referrals to further resources. Find your local helpline number on the NHS website or by calling 111. 
  • Samaritans: Offering a free, non-judgmental listening service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the Samaritans provide a safe space to express your emotions without fear. Reach them by calling 116 123 or visiting their website ( 
  • A&E: In severe crises, especially if you believe there's a risk of harming yourself or others, your nearest hospital's Accident & Emergency (A&E) department is an appropriate option for urgent care. 

Additional Information and Support 

  • Mind: This mental health charity offers a wealth of resources and information across a broad range of mental health concerns. Explore their website ( or call their infoline on 0300 123 3393. 
  • Rethink Mental Illness: Another charity focused on mental health, Rethink provides accessible guidance and advocacy for those affected by mental illness. Visit their website ( or reach out to their advice line on 0300 5000 927. 

Remember: You are not alone. Seeking help demonstrates strength, and a variety of support options exist. 

The Funding Dilemma 

The mental health crisis spotlights the stark reality of underfunded support services. Charities like Anxious Minds, despite their efficacy, face a constant struggle for survival, relying heavily on donations and fundraising efforts to maintain operation. This raises the question of whether current resource allocation could be optimized to maximize impact. 

Eddie Dean, founder of Anxious Minds, advocates for direct investment in charities with established track records. "We deliver essential therapy and support, yet we lack consistent NHS funding while NHS services refer people to us. Direct support would ensure our long-term sustainability and allow us to continue this vital work." 

Although initiatives like the new safe havens hold promise, some argue that bolstering existing infrastructure within charities might provide a more cost-effective and efficient approach to addressing the crisis. 

The Importance of Prevention 

While reactive crisis intervention saves lives, a holistic approach demands equal focus on proactive prevention. Experts contend that addressing underlying social and economic inequalities, fostering strong support networks, and prioritizing mental health education can help reduce the risk factors that often lead to crises. 

By investing in early intervention programs for children and young adults, communities can create a more resilient future. Teaching healthy coping mechanisms, encouraging open dialogue about mental health, and providing accessible support during transitional life stages could have profound long-term benefits. 

The North East's battle against rising suicide rates and mental health strain necessitates a multifaceted strategy. This includes strengthening existing services, exploring innovative solutions like safe havens, and, crucially, turning greater attention towards preventative measures that address the root causes of mental distress. 

The Role of Community 

In combating the growing mental health crisis, the importance of community-level support cannot be overstated. Grassroots initiatives, often born from personal experiences of struggle, can offer a uniquely empathetic and accessible form of care. 

The "What's the Craic" men's group in Blyth is a prime example. Les Welsh, their boxing coach, understands the power of fostering a non-judgmental space where men can connect and share openly. He believes the new safe haven has the potential to expand on this model, providing a point of access for those who might hesitate to join an established group. 

"What's the Craic" serves as a reminder that mental health challenges don't discriminate. People from all walks of life can find themselves in crisis. Accessible community resources are key to breaking down stigma and offering individuals a pathway to support. 

Initiatives focused on reaching specific demographics can be particularly valuable. For instance, dedicated safe havens or support groups for young people or those within the LGBTQ+ community could address unique needs and challenges experienced within these populations. 

Moreover, fostering partnerships between charities, community groups, and NHS services can create a more interconnected support network. This collaboration can ensure a smoother flow of referrals and facilitate the development of wraparound services that address an individual's diverse needs. 

The Voices of Lived Experience 

To understand the mental health crisis, it's essential to listen to those who have navigated the system. Ray's experience with the crisis team highlights the crucial role of compassionate professionals. However, he acknowledges that he was "lucky" – an indication that the level of care may be inconsistent. 

Sharing stories like Anne's and Ray's helps destigmatize seeking help. They also offer valuable insights into flaws and successes within the system, empowering those with lived experience to advocate for improvements. 

Patient feedback should be central to service development. Gathering data through surveys or focus groups allows for identification of gaps, and for pinpointing areas where existing resources could be better utilized. This information should inform decisions about resource allocation and policy development. 

A Call for Continued Investment and Innovation 

While the North East's investment in walk-in safe havens is a positive step, sustained funding for a range of mental health services is essential. The commitment to preventive measures must also remain a priority. This might encompass: 

  • Expanding accessible mental health education programs within schools 
  • Funding community-based initiatives focused on resilience and coping skills 
  • Providing targeted support to populations facing heightened risk factors 

The North East has an opportunity to lead the way in innovative mental health support. Continued collaboration between charities, the NHS, local authorities, and those with lived experience is essential to develop effective strategies that address the region's unique challenges. 

A Beacon of Hope 

Ultimately, the fight to address the mental health crisis demands a fundamental shift in societal attitudes. Mental health should be considered equally important as physical well-being, with appropriate resources dedicated to promoting open dialogue and early intervention. 

While the challenges are immense, the progress made by dedicated individuals and organizations offers hope. Anne's story is one of survival and resilience, made possible by accessing support at a critical juncture. The work of charities like Anxious Minds and the vision behind community-focused initiatives like "What's the Craic" and the new safe havens demonstrate the profound impact of compassionate care. 

These efforts inspire optimism about the North East's potential to create a future where mental health support is readily available, accessible, and destigmatized. While funding constraints necessitate difficult choices, investment in mental health is not merely an expenditure – it's a sound investment in the well-being and productivity of communities. 

What Can You Do? 

Everyone can play a role in shifting the narrative around mental health. Here are some ways to make a difference: 

  • Educate yourself: Learn about mental health conditions, resources available, and how to identify signs of distress in yourself or others. Organizations like Mind and Rethink offer helpful information. 
  • Prioritize your own mental health: Practice self-care, healthy coping mechanisms, and seek support when needed. 
  • Check in on loved ones: Offer a listening ear without judgment. Let those you care about know that you are there for them. 
  • Challenge stigma: Speak openly about mental health and advocate for greater awareness and understanding. 
  • Support mental health charities: Donate, volunteer, or raise awareness about the crucial work they do. 

Final Thoughts 

The mental health crisis is undeniably complex, but and it is not insurmountable. By prioritizing innovative solutions, investing in preventative measures, empowering those with lived experience, and fostering a culture of support and understanding, the North East can build a system where no one has to face their challenges alone. 

The journey towards better mental health may be long, but every step taken, every voice raised, and every act of compassion brings us closer to a future where every life is valued and every mind has the opportunity to thrive. 

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