By Andy Hirst
A Huddersfield charity expects to be soon helping 1,000 men as the mental health crisis continues to soar during the pandemic … and it could get even worse as the new variant Omicron grips the nation.
Platform 1 has also revealed the tragedy it is facing day in and day out as desperate people turn to it for help.
The charity has grown so quickly it now has specialist counselling offices on Railway Street in Huddersfield town centre next to its base at the end of Huddersfield Railway Station.
Platform 1 has 850 men on its books but people are seeking help at such a phenomenal rate that it expects to pass the 1,000-mark in the next few weeks.
Platform 1 project leader Gez Walsh said: “We are counselling people who have had to watch through perspex while their loved ones have died in front of them, people badly in need of bereavement counselling, men who have had time to reflect on their lives while in lockdowns with historic abuse coming back to haunt them.
“With the pandemic going on and on and Omicron leaving more and more people quarantined and isolated, the situation will only get worse, especially if we end up with more lockdowns.
“We have lost a few of the guys along the way who have taken their own lives, some we worked as hard as we could to support. There is just no need for these tragedies to happen.
“There needs to be parity between physical and mental health. If you have a physical ailment you make an appointment with a GP. If it’s a mental health issue the services just aren’t there or difficult to access with waiting lists that go on for months.
“We are here to plug that gap for people who need help and need it now. The demand is growing rapidly and we must grow quickly to meet that demand. There is a gaping hole in mental health services that we are doing our utmost to plug. We are trying to provide that instant access to people who are in dire need.”
Gez and Platform 1 project manager Bob Morse recently gave a talk to a full meeting of Kirklees Council.
Many were left shocked at the dearth of mental health support and have contacted the charity since to find out more and how they can help.
Gez said: “Kirklees Council has been wonderful in the ways it is trying to support us but we need more funding. People have been so generous donating to us and we are applying for as many grants as we can.
“The demand on our services is just relentless with new people contacting us for help every day. We are growing beyond recognition on a weekly basis.”
Men are referred to Platform 1 from just about every professional organisation in the town from community mental health services and GPs to Kirklees Council, the probation service and the police.
Platform 1 has now set up two community hubs – one in Almondbury and the other in Meltham – with more planned across Kirklees to provide counselling along with advice on issues such as benefits and housing.
The situation is so bad at times Platform 1 is helping entire families including crisis intervention in schools, acting as an intermediary between families who are not engaging with schools or social services when a child is not attending school. The reasons behind this can be very varied and complex.
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,
Find out more about Platform One from its website https://platform-1.co.uk/
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 freephone crisis number is 0800 066 2828 and the office number is 01484 421143.
* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content Andy Hirst who now runs his own Huddersfield-based agency AH! PR specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting for business in Yorkshire and across the UK.