By Andy Hirst

A mental health charity in Huddersfield is expanding rapidly due to ever increasing demand … and even the Russian invasion of Ukraine will have an impact.

Platform 1 began as a men’s mental health charity but now also helps women and children too. It especially helps people in crisis who often have complex needs and don’t accept help from other organisations.

Some of the men it helps used to serve in the armed forces and Platform 1 project leader Gez Walsh said the images from Ukraine will be causing former soldiers here to have flashbacks to traumatic scenes they have witnessed themselves in war zones such as Afghanistan.

Gez said: “War is always very bad news but the repercussions it has on people can be global as we are seeing with the invasion of Ukraine.”

One of Platform 1’s specialist women’s groups supports women with serious domestic issues. Another women’s support group focuses on bereavement and the immense impact this can have on people’s lives and mental health.

When children are persistent truants or refuse to go to school, Platform 1 is now often mediating between the schools, the families and the youngsters to try to resolve the problem.

Demand for its services is growing so much Platform 1 now has plans for new outreach centres in Honley and Netherton to go with its current outreach bases in Almondbury and Meltham.

Gez said: “We just can’t believe how quickly we are having to expand to meet the number of people needing our help. We are changing and evolving as a project and growing really rapidly, seemingly every week.

“We saw a massive change when Covid first struck and the country went into lockdown. It gave people time to sit and think with serious issues such as abuse in childhood returning to haunt them. In the first three or four months after the initial lockdown in March 2020 we saw a huge increase in demand for our services and that has just kept on growing.”

Gez Walsh (left) and Bob Morse spoke at a Kirklees Council meeting

The Meltham outreach group – which also includes a debt counsellor – runs at the Crossroads centre in Meltham from 11am to 1pm on Tuesdays while the Almondbury one is based at the former Kirklees Council drop-in shop on Aldonley and is open from 11am to 1pm on Thursdays.

Platform 1 has just set up a prostate cancer support group run by medical counsellor Chris Deering after one of the many volunteers at Platform 1 was diagnosed with the condition and realised there is very little support out there for men.

Gez said: “We met one man with the condition who was very frightened and had no access to any support services so we thought we’d set one up. We’ve liaised with nurses on the prostate cancer ward at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and they have agreed to refer patients to us who want some extra support.”

The group’s first meeting was on Thursday evening at Platform 1’s new base at 7 St George’s Square. The aim is to have guest speakers at each meeting including Macmillan nurses, GPs and surgeons from hospitals in both Bradford and Huddersfield where operations for prostate cancer are held in our area.

Platform 1 is helping around 1,000 people at the moment and although is keeping its core services going is moving towards providing more educational help to try to get people into work. In time, the plan is this will include NVQs, first aid course and health and safety courses.

People are referred to Platform 1 for help, support and advice from just about every professional organisation in Kirklees from community mental health services and GPs to Kirklees Council, the probation service and the police.

Apart from the people who come through the charity’s doors each week, the counsellors also do home visits and speak to people on the phone.

The charity’s main site is an area next to Huddersfield Railway Station that offers therapies including music, art, cycle repair workshops, joinery, landscaping and creative writing. The charity also provides IT, literacy and cookery lessons. It has offices in St George’s Square for counselling and group sessions.

Platform 1 has a crisis hotline for people who are having thoughts of self-harm or even suicide which is 0800 066 2828.

Find out more about Platform 1 from its website

How you can help Platform 1.

Funding is always a problem, but people can easily make a donation of just £3. All you need to do is text UCARE 3 to 70085 to donate £3. The way it works is that the text costs £3 but you can donate more this way if you want.

The office number is 01484 421143.

* Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.