Lincoln counsellors are using the power of nearly £50,000 in funding to make a real difference to the lives of people struggling to overcome serious mental illness, the trauma of sexual abuse or to escape suicidal feelings.

The Naomi Watkins Counselling Hub (NWCH) announced three new special support groups and the appointment of a part-time, sexual violence therapist. The news comes after Chief Executive, Naomi Watkins-Ligudzinska, and her team have spent more than a year counselling hundreds of clients during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Now, despite an easing of Coronavirus restrictions, the Hub remains busier than ever. NWCH’s new groups and latest employee are great news because they mean the Hub can reach out to even more people in need.

Naomi said,

“There has been no let-up in our counselling support since the Pandemic started, much of which had to be done over the phone and internet for many weeks.  Despite the lifting of many restrictions, we are finding ourselves busier than ever. Covid-19 has been, and continues to be, a serious risk to people’s physical and mental health.”

“Having to stay at home, work from home, being unable to see family and friends in person, having to isolate due to infection and having to continually sanitise themselves, has been tough for everyone and, unfortunately,  magnified people’s existing mental health worries.

“I’m really proud of our new group sessions and the fact they are supported by social media channels and our new NWCH App. We believe they are not only user-friendly but will help to save lives.”

NWCH’s latest investment in its services are backed by funding through Lincolnshire County Council, NHS Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, the Bromhead Medical Trust, and supported by Lincolnshire SHINE and funding from Lincolnshire’s Police & Crime Commissioner.

“Our Men’s Suicide Group – ManChat has received £10,000 from Lincolnshire County Council and NHS Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group and is co-ordinated by Lincolnshire SHINE,” said Naomi.

“It is being run by NWCH counsellors Ian Gillman and Nick Briggs and is tailored to help men aged between 25 and 59, who are troubled by thoughts of suicide.  The group meets for two hours a week for six weeks, where participants can chat with each other.  A closed Facebook group offers ongoing support. People may be referred to the group by NWCH, other agencies or they can self-refer.”

The Serious Mental Illness Group – known as TALA (The Anti Loneliness Alliance) is also backed by £10,000 from Lincolnshire County Council and NHS Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group and is co-ordinated by Lincolnshire SHINE.

It is run by NWCH counsellors Colin Bingham and Nicola Wickstead.  Participants meet for six weeks and benefit from befriending and group activities. Meetings include mindfulness sessions and participants also have the support of a closed Facebook Group. People can be referred to TALA by social prescribers (agencies),” said Naomi.

“We are also delighted to announce our Young People’s Suicide Prevention initiative – The Willow Project (TWP), which is supported by £10,000 from the Bromhead Medical Trust and which aims to help people between 11 and 18 years old who have thoughts to harm themselves.”

“Two-hourly sessions, taking place over six weeks, allowing participants to chat to others who may also be worried that they don’t want to be here anymore, or with urges to self-harm. They can also chat to an NWCH facilitator and do creative exercises. People can self-refer or worried parents can get in touch with us by calling 01522 253809.  We’re really pleased to have a TWP space coming soon on our new App, so that group participants can continue to chat outside of group sessions,” said Naomi.

Finally, Lincolnshire’s Police & Crime Commissioner has also supported the Hub when it comes to tackling issues of sexual violence and abuse – with a grant of £18,000.

“Sadly, issues of sexual abuse are constantly in the news and we are extremely grateful for Lincs PCC’s support in our drive to help sufferers and delighted to report that this funding has allowed us to recruit a part-time sexual violence therapist.”

Naomi, who is constantly developing NWCH and its services, was thrilled when she was awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship Award in 2019. It allowed her to travel to Australia and New Zealand and undertake a six-week research project and share ideas and best practice with agencies in those countries.

That visit, which saw her bring ideas back to her own practice, has seen Naomi deliver a 99-page report outlining her experiences during the once-in-a-lifetime trip and explain how it has enhanced her personal development.  At the same time, NWCH has continued to grow and now operates out of three units on the city’s Allenby Industrial Estate.