Couple launch groups to offer mental health support

A couple are proving it is good to talk after setting up mental health awareness groups to help those in need.

Kate and Steve Thornton wanted to make a difference so decided to create the support groups just a few months ago.

Steve and Kate Thornton

Steve and Kate Thornton

It started with father-of-two Steve, 40, launching a men’s only group in St Helens after discovering it had the highest suicide rate in the country.

He previously had mental health issues and wanted to help others.

Kate, 40, said: “He recognised that St Helens needed some sort of help from a men’s point of view and was really keen to break down the stigma for men and get them talking.”

The group, named HIMvisible, was set up to offer support and is now run by three men, including Dan Cardwell, whose brother Craig died by suicide.

Stef English and Claire Cardiff with friend Amie Collier

Stef English and Claire Cardiff with friend Amie Collier

There were soon calls for a group to be created for women and Kate was contacted by two friends of Amie Collier, a mum-of-two from Abram who took her life in July.

Stef English and Claire Cardiff, from Ashton, joined forces with Kate to set up a group for women, named HIMvisibelle, which has meetings at Stubshaw Cross Labour Club.

Kate said: “The groups have a very relaxed environment. We offer free tea and biscuits and the participation is all down to the people. If you want to talk you can, if you don’t you don’t.”

The meetings do not have a fixed plan, with people going along to talk about anything.

Steve and Kate are qualified mental health first aiders and they can signpost to other services, such as a professional counsellor.

So far around 15 people go to the men’s sessions and five to the women’s, but this is growing each time as the same people return and new people join.

Kate said: “It’s for people who have had a tough time, had depression or felt suicidal, to talk to other people who can comfort you without feeling like you are being patronised to. Someone else’s story sometimes makes you feel your story isn’t half as bad as you thought and talking about it helps.”

Kate and Steve, who live in Newton, have registered the groups as a community interest company but are busy raising the £5,000 needed to turn it into a charity.

Several members have started training to run the St Helens 10k in March and Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon in Liverpool in May to boost funds.

Kate said: “We are all volunteers and we just want to make a difference and get the word out there.

“Meetings we understand aren’t for everybody and that’s why we are doing the sporting events, so you don’t have to be nervous to sit in a room, you can go for a run.

“We are in our infancy and there are a lot more events on the cards this year.”

The next meeting of HIMvisibelle takes place from 10.30am to noon on Saturday, January 25 at Stubshaw Cross Labour Club.

The men’s and women’s groups are held on alternate Thursdays at Windleshaw Sports Club, with the next meeting being for men on Thursday, January 16.

More information about the groups is available via their Facebook pages.

To support their fund-raising, go to www.gofundme.com/f/himvisible-amp-himvisibelle-charity-runs.