• Date awarded: July 2022
  • Awarded value: £9,740
  • Fund: NHS Charities Together Community Partnership Grants Programme
  • Location: Kirkcaldy YMCA
A mental health support group taking place at Kirkcaldy YMCA.

Funding from Fife Health Charity via NHS Charities Together Community Partnership Grants Programme has enabled Kirkcaldy YMCA to provide mental health support to around 40 people each week, enabling them to improve resilience, develop coping strategies, maintain family units and prevent the need for interventions.

As a result of the funding accessed via Fife Health Charity, Kirkcaldy YMCA is providing opportunities for people to meet up in a safe way without prejudice by running a series of mental health support groups four times a week, supporting an average of 12 young people and 26 adults each week. As many of the participants experience mental and or physical health issues, while others are dealing with the challenges of drug and alcohol misuse, the group and one-to-one sessions take place within a welcoming, understanding and nurturing environment where people feel included, listened to and valued.

In some sessions, a coaching approach is offered, giving people the opportunity to learn a self-directed solution to their issues and challenges. Participants also have the opportunity to access hot food and share a meal together, helping to address food poverty and encourage healthy eating. The transformational aspects of attending the group or one-to-one sessions also often include medication, drug and alcohol reduction.

Keen to encourage participants to take ownership of the sessions, they are encouraged to share their ideas each week including about the things they would like to do, topics they want to discuss, the information they want, any training or further knowledge they feel is necessary and the food they want to cook and eat. Playing an active role is helped participants to feel that they are working together and involved in decisions about their wellbeing. As part of their experience of adjusting to post-pandemic life, those coming along to the sessions have reported making new friends and within their own communities re-establishing connections which they had lost during lockdown.

The benefits go far beyond the young people and adults who take part in the weekly sessions, as Fiona Sword, the chief executive officer at Kirkcaldy YMCA, explains.

“People with different life experiences have all been affected throughout the Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions. The greatest challenge has been the magnitude of adverse situations that they are dealing with and the impact that those issues have on all aspects of their health. Those who might not have considered before to come along to a group to get support for wellbeing, have told us how much taking part has helped them to be able to get out and come to something where they can make friends, get something to eat and do activities or talk about the things that are important to them.

“Although on average 40 people are benefitting directly each week from taking part in the sessions, there’s a significant ripple effect,” Fiona continues. “With as many as double that number benefitting indirectly, such as the person’s children, other family members and in some cases friends and neighbours in our local communities.

"Additional benefits are that people are offering to volunteer, wanting to give something back, which is a really positive step. We recognise the need for the participants to progress on to other groups, activities and projects and are always looking out for personal development opportunities, including volunteering within Kirkcaldy YMCA and the peer mentoring programme of the Gallatown Gala & Community Group.”

The Difference Our Funding is Making

Following funding from Fife Health Charity via the NHS Charities Together Community Partnership Grants Programme, participants in the group and one-to-one sessions at Kirkcaldy YMCA have reported that they not only look forward to coming along each week, many have said that it’s been a life saver. Being able to talk about their personal circumstances without judgement and be signposted or referred to other services where appropriate, plus access essential supplies such as nappies, basic household items and free, healthy food, all help the participants to feel better about themselves and more able to cope with life’s challenges.

Building confidence by being part of a group also helps the participants to boost their ability to connect with people in everyday life, while being active within the group, such as setting up a craft workshop or making a pot of soup to share with the group, helps everyone to feel purposeful and valued. After experiencing weeks and months of isolation during pandemic lockdowns, more than half the participants now take part in other activities within Kirkcaldy YMCA, while other have joined other community groups, meeting new people and developing their skills.

The experience of one participant, who we’ll call Charlie, is just one example of how Fife Health Charity’s funding of group sessions has had a positive impact on a personal level. The friend of someone who had started coming to the group, Charlie was encouraged to come along because they seemed anxious and withdrawn. After initially being very quiet and not taking part in the group, Charlie had a breakthrough moment during a session on self care and relaxation which included everyone writing something encouraging for each person on a note and putting it in a jar. Everyone felt emotional during the session because of the nice things people were saying, which in turn helped Charlie express their feelings and share some of what had been going on in their life.

Since then Charlie has continued to attend group sessions regularly and has also had ongoing one-to-one support from the development worker at Kirkcaldy YMCA. Charlie has grown in confidence and has found friends who are encouraging and supportive. Charlie is now spending time with more people who are not drug users and these positive connections are enabling Charlie to better engage with addiction services and social work and take positive steps in getting their life back on track.