A counselling service for people in mental health crisis says it needs more funding to save lives.

Platform 1 in Huddersfield town centre did a staggering 3,380 counselling sessions last year, including saving people within minutes of taking their own lives.

But it says it must have more funding from Kirklees Council and the health authorities to continue its frontline work to meet the high demand.

The charity is based in offices on Railway Street in St George’s Square and has a team of 10 counsellors and can also call on a psychologist and a Relate relationship counsellor when needed.

The charity’s crisis and counselling lead, Bridget Fahy, said: “We are helping people to turn their lives around often from a point of severe mental health crisis but, even more importantly than that, we are a proactive service that saves lives.

“If anyone takes their own life the ripple effect through their friends, relatives and even their local community can be enormous. One life lost can have a terrible impact on so many more and even lead others into mental health crisis to the point of contemplating doing the same.

“But we are finding that the funding is drying up. It just doesn’t seem to be out there anymore.”

Bridget Fahy

Platform 1’s project leader Gez Walsh is aware of a group of friends where three of them have committed suicide.

Bridget and Gez are called out day and night to help people on the brink of ending it all.

Charities like the Samaritans can only listen to people over the phone. Platform 1 has a strong track record of going out, finding the people, talking to them and, ultimately, saving them and changing their lives.

In recent times they have found one man on moorland in the middle of the night, talked another off a motorway bridge and found a third in a wood with a piece of rope.

A young man recently phoned Platform 1 in deep distress after suffering a mental breakdown. He said his GP, a crisis centre and a hospital A&E department had all said they couldn’t help him but a friend gave him Platform 1’s phone number and Bridget talked him into the office. He left so much calmer feeling he could face the future again and went on to have several counselling sessions.

Gez said: “When we speak to people who have tried to commit suicide but been unsuccessful invariably they say they hadn’t wanted to die.

“It was something they had done on the spur of the moment – they just didn’t want to be in their own head but they didn’t want to be dead. They were just in complete turmoil and wanted the irrationality racing through their minds to stop.”

And Gez revealed it can be virtually impossible to get a mental health bed for someone in crisis.

He revealed the police had picked up a man who needed sectioning in Huddersfield so Platform 1 phoned all the health trusts nationwide, even going so far as Truro in Cornwall, but couldn’t get him a bed.

“The service has always been like this,” said Gez. “There simply has never been the investment needed to turn it into a community based service which is why it’s left to organisations like Platform 1 to fill the void.

“When people reach a mental health crisis they are at the lowest point in their lives but we can and will help them. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have contacted us in floods of tears desperate for help, not knowing which way to turn after other services have told them they can’t help.

“At times of crisis like these people need help immediately, not two weeks down the line. We hear so much about how it’s good for people with mental health problems to talk. The problem is they often have no-one to listen to them. Mental health is so complex. It takes time to heal a broken mind.”

Gez added: “I became involved in a mental health group that was the forerunner to Platform 1 after a man I knew tried to kill himself. I promised to get him the help he needed but realised I couldn’t which is why the charity is so badly needed. Without us I fear so many more lives will be lost in the future and countless more devastated.”

Platform 1 founders Gez Walsh (left) and Bob Morse

Platform 1 is now well-known and respected throughout Kirklees and people are referred to it by the police, probation, mental health services, Kirklees Council, addiction services and GPs among several others.

Its reputation has also grown through word of mouth among people who have used the service and recommended it to others in need of urgent help.

Bridget said: “We are here for people who just can’t access the services they need for whatever reason. We can also help sort out their other problems such as housing and benefits before we get to tackling their mental health issues. The cases we deal with can be very complex and time-consuming but we don’t turn people away who are in crisis.”

The one-to-one counselling is also comprehensive, often lasting for 15 sessions followed by six sessions once a month.

Every three months all the Platform 1 counsellors meet and discuss which issues keep coming up again and again and the charity then sets up support groups for people to attend.

These include domestic violence and sexual violence against both men and women, a menopause group and a prostate cancer support group.

Platform 1 has been forced to close its base at Huddersfield Railway Station

Platform 1 is also working more and more with families where relationships have broken down and this could be due to drink or drugs addiction or there are simply constant arguments and frayed tempers in the home.

The charity also goes into schools and the University of Huddersfield to give talks and hold workshops on mental health awareness.

Bereavement can leave people in terrible shock and unable to think or function properly which is why Platform 1 can also step in to help with mental health support along with practical assistance sorting out the funeral arrangements and informing all those who need to know about a person’s death.

Bridget said: “People come to us because they trust us and they know we won’t let them down.”

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 Platform 1 office number is 01484 421143.

If you’d like to make a monthly donation another way or give them a cheque please phone the office.

For more information go to https://platform-1.co.uk/fundraising/

  • Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.