Many of us have experienced changes in our circumstances over the past 18 months, so it’s important to look after ourselves, to be aware of potential mental health issues, and combat loneliness and isolation.
No one can say the past 18 months or so haven’t been unusual – and challenging for many of us. A lot of people have seen their circumstances change, whether it’s through the loss of friends and family, changes in finances or an upheaval with work.
As the summer starts to slip away, it might be easy to stay at home, avoid interacting with others and end up feeling quite isolated. So while the weather is still good, and before the evenings get dark, now is the time to think about how you can stay connected with the outside world.
The good news is that there are a number of organisations in our area that aim to help local folk do just that, plus plenty of clubs, societies and groups that will always welcome new members with open arms.
‘Tackling loneliness, isolation and social inequality is the driving force behind our small charity Open Door,’ says Sam Harris, Communications Manager. ‘During lockdown, Open Door fed more than 4,000 meals to our elderly and vulnerable.’
The volunteer-run community and arts space on Berkhamsted High Street has a small donations cafe and an increasing range of activities for social, physical and mental wellbeing. Sam explains: ‘These include creative arts with exhibitions by local artists and the community, physical wellbeing activities such as yoga and Qigong, and various groups to help mental health and loneliness – everything from Knit and Natter, Mums and Tots, and baby signing, to our lovely Memory Cafe for people with dementia and their carers.’
There’s also a Connections programme aimed at men, which includes Zoom support groups, Yoga classes and running groups. Find out more about Open Door at www.opendoorberkhamsted.co.uk.
Hector’s House is a Berkhamsted charity that aims to promote mental health awareness for young people. Find out more at hectorshouse.org.uk.
Linking Lives, based at the Baptist Church in Tring High Street is a national charity, and this local branch offers ways to help anyone who feels lonely or isolated. Cliff Brown tells Living: ‘We are here for anyone of any age (over 16) who hasn’t got a network. We’ve had lots of people who have had to rebuild their lives here because of working from home. For 14 hours a day their lives have been working and socialising in London, and now they’ve spent the past 18 months in Tring, without their network of friends and colleagues. Other people have family abroad and have been isolated from them for months.’
Linking Lives can help in many ways. They offer a befriending service – which can be over the phone or face to face. They have funded a few old iPads so that people can contact friends and family. Cliff takes a group to the pub once a week, and other friendships are made through different interests. There are people who meet for dog walks, and volunteers have helped clients to join local special-interest clubs too. The drop-in centre at the church is open from 9am-1pm most days. ‘There’s no pressure, and it’s a free service,’ he says. Although the service is based at the church there is no need to be religious in order to attend or volunteer.
Cliff says they used to get quite a few referrals from local doctors, but with face-to-face appointments harder to get due to the pandemic, this has dropped off, so he is keen to ensure that anyone who needs their help can access it. ‘We know we’re only scratching the surface,’ he says.
If you are interested in the work that Linking Lives in Tring does, either as a client or as a volunteer, email email@example.com or call 01442 824054 or 07305 257160. Find out more at tringbaptistchurch.co.uk/linkinglives.
The over 50s can also join the Repair Shed, where they can tinker in a shed, make friends and share their lives. The Repair Sheds are run by Community Action Dacorum, whose Chief Executive Simon Aulton says: ‘The Repair Shed makes a positive difference to people suffering from loneliness and isolation by allowing them to talk shoulder to shoulder rather than eye to eye.’
Berkhamsted folk can access the Shed at Sunnyside Rural Trust in Northchurch. Those in Tring can access the Shed at Sunnyside Rural Trust in Northchurch. Shedders (as they like to be known) fix things, build new items out of wood and metal and sell them to keep their shed running. A Sewing Cafe has been established along similar lines, in Markyate, with the possibility of more locations to follow. If you would like to be involved with a local shed or cafe email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01442 617630.
At the other end of the age scale, young people aged 12-18 can head to Berkhamsted’s Swan Youth Project, which aims to provide a safe environment where they can go, find something to do and someone to listen. Email email@example.com for information.
Also for young people of secondary school age, there’s always a warm welcome at Tring Youth Club. The club runs on Friday nights and offers XBox, pool, bar football, tuck shop – and you can bring your own music to plug into the sound system. Contact them through their Facebook or Instagram accounts.
The Community Action Dacorum team is making a positive difference to lives in Dacorum and across the whole of Hertfordshire with its Staying Connected – Digital Inclusion program. The programme, funded by Capt. Sir Tom Moore and the NHS Charities Together fund, sets out to repurpose old computers, tablets and phones to give to those who don’t have access to the internet. Digital Champions will work alongside those who need a confidence boost when it comes to using IT equipment and guide them through the process from switching on to using the software.
To find out about other clubs locally, visit our home page at www.livingmags.info to view digital copies of the magazines and turn to page 26.