Wellbeing hub nominated for award

A mental health hub in Canterbury has been nominated for this year’s wellbeing awards in the county.

Canterbury Umbrella Centre has served the city for almost four decades and has been nominated by County Councillor Mel Dawkins for this year’s Kent Mental Wellbeing Awards.

The awards showcase dedication towards those struggling with mental health issues through the themes of kindness and compassion; wellbeing; and mental health.

Led by Centre Manager Anna De-Brauwer, the centre provides support to all of those in the community, meaning that no one is turned away. Most recently it has been a source of strength for many of those that are a part of the Ukraine refugee community in Canterbury.

It has done this alongside supporting those who may be feeling secluded and alone, those struggling with a physical disability or with a mental health issue as well as aiding the students of the city. Anna, who has been a part of Canterbury Umbrella Centre for several years, is known to all members and is on hand for anyone who has a query. Alongside Mark, who is a well-practised Mental Health Support Worker and Mental First Aid Trainer, the two of them are available to call every weekday for support or via email. If it is out of hours, they always get back to you so no one is feeling unheard by the centre, which is especially important for those going through a distressing time.

The attitude towards inclusion from Canterbury Umbrella Centre is commendable, as it has gone to great lengths to make sure its members and attendees get the help that they need, by adapting to the world and circumstances around them. The Coronavirus Pandemic lockdowns were hard to endure for the majority of those that experienced them however this is particularly pertinent for those who were struggling with an issue whether that be physical, mental or of another nature. For some people it heightened their existing issues as they were magnified due to the shrinking of daily life due to being restricted on what people were allowed to do.

Despite the new challenges that the pandemic imposed on the centre, this didn’t stop them from enabling them to provide the services they currently offered, they just needed to be thought out and implemented in a different way. Therefore Canterbury Umbrella Centre went from an in-person service to an online and phone network service. For those members who were unable to access the help provided in this way, pastoral support was given so the centre made sure everyone was reached in whatever way suited their needs. The services that were offered were included in this were a range of activities which advocates for well-being and positive mental health. These were needed more than ever during the difficult times of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Alongside this, the Food Pantry was created for those during the lockdowns who were hard to get to or were particularly nervous and worried about venturing out during the uncertain times of the pandemic. This ingenious idea has continued to benefit the community’s members, as it has gone on to help those struggling as a result of the current Cost of Living Crisis that faces the country. Going hand in hand with this creation is the Social Health Cafe. This space, which is made possible by Head Chef Robert, Zhanna and Kim, provides those who visit with great low-cost meals, which are available to those who are members as well as those who are just visiting the centre. The cafe is open every weekday and every Wednesday it supplies a ‘Food Packet’ service. This includes the necessities to create numerous meals and the centre only asks for a little donation towards it.

What is so distinct about Canterbury Umbrella Centre is their drive and enthusiasm to make sure everyone is supported. Throughout all of the challenges and barriers put in their way, the centre has made sure that each person who looks towards the community for help is not turned away or not thought of. This is demonstrated consistently from the change of how it reaches people during the Pandemic, to continuing on ideas created to support members and adapting them for different needs.

The Kent Mental Wellbeing Awards are staged by the mental health charity Mind in Bexley and East Kent in collaboration with a range of wellbeing and mental health organisations.

Nominations can be linked to a simple act of kindness that lifted the spirits, a business that has improved staff wellbeing, through to a targeted initiative delivered by a charity or statutory organisation to support a mental health issue.

The event is supported by Kent County Council, Kent Community Foundation, ADM Computing, National Grid, Medway Council, Independent Music Productions, Cactus Graphics, Blé Couture Cakes, Ashford International Hotel.

Nominations are accepted from the Kent, Medway, Bexley and Bromley areas and can be submitted until noon on 1 September www.eastkentmind.org.uk/kentnominations/