Meet the social enterprise giving Scots a much needed Lifelink

The statement is stark but provides ample proof of why the service is there:

“Certainly I’m seeing more young people who are self-harming and alongside that anxiety also. And I would suggest in the past two to three years, there has been an increase in that.

“I don’t know if that’s just young people are more comfortable with sharing, but certainly I’m experiencing working with clients more often in these areas.”

Patricia Kerr Adetoro is a senior practitioner at Lifelink, a social enterprise and charity which focusses on providing help to people to manage stress and improve their mental health.

Patricia, also known as Tricia or Trish to her clients, works with the youth team service of the charity which gives people from the ages of 11 to 18 deal the emotional tools to deal with challenges in their lives.

She says that young people can be experiencing a variety of personal and social issues which can manifest in different ways.

“A lot of the presenting issues come from anger issues,” she says. “From family break-ups, low self-esteem issues, low confidence issues.

“We can support young people with bereavement issues, and family issues in the way of lots of different things – separation, loss, break-ups, or conflict within the family unit, with siblings, between parents.”

A trained counsellor, who has been with Lifelink for 14 years, Patricia uses a number of different techniques including working with humour, play and emotional literacy, to work creatively to help youngsters open up, some of whom may struggle to articulate their troubles verbally.

“My philosophy is whatever it takes to get the young person engaging is the most important thing,” she adds.

One of her clients, Leonida, recently spoke about why she benefited from speaking to someone from Lifelink.

The 15-year-old, who lives in North East Glasgow, said she didn’t want to go to school, and didn’t enjoy it.

She said: “I was like, I don’t want to meet here. I don’t want to do this. I’ve met lots of people, she’s going to be the same. But then after a while, I was like, she’s not bad, she’s good.”

“Because there’s a lot of things on your mind. Not just one. There’s about school, then you have about your future and I don’t know what to do with my life. I don’t know where to start.

“But now I can talk to Trish, and I can actually talk to her and she’ll understand. She’ll give me good advice. She helps me see everything in a positive way.”

Lifelink first began as the Royston Stress Centre in 1992 after a small group of locals wanted to address the addiction issues, stress levels, and different demands affecting people in the area.

That original group went on to become the founding board of directors of an social enterprise which had at its heart the ethos of providing help to adults and young people in managing the high stress levels in their lives and improve their overall well-being.

Though it has now changed its name to Lifelink and moved to its head office in Ibrox, it still has the same ethos: having fully-trained counsellors providing services to those in need.

This is done in around 20 different venues across Glasgow, with hubs in each of the main sectors of the city: Ibrox in the south, Maryhill in the North West, and Royston in the North East.

The remaining services are found in easy-to-access places, such as GPs’ rooms or community centres, and Lifelink have also recently branched out to include parts of West Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire.

As part of their remit, Lifelink also work with secondary schools across Glasgow City, with agencies and the voluntary sector, to specifically help young people. Youngsters can self-refer, but can also be referred through teachers, GPs, social workers or family members, amongst others, if they appear to have issues in coping.

Rhona Philp, management assistant at Lifelink, says it is important to offer their free service to those who may not necessarily be able to access counselling services otherwise.

As of 2015, it had worked with more than 6800 adults and young people through one-to-one counselling, group work and holistic therapies.

She said: “We want to be in the heart of the community and serving people close to home, being as available and accessible as possible to those who are maybe limited in how they can travel or get to different areas. We want to be there.

“Our vision is for everyone to be healthier and happier and that they love work and learn. That’s what we’re trying to go for, trying to increase health and happiness.”

Terence, from Knightswood, is another of their clients. He has suffered from depression and was unemployed, and approached Lifelink for extra support when he embarked on a new period of study last year.

He said: “I was struggling a wee bit, time was going along and I felt I needed a bit more support.

“My counsellor gave me tips to help if I was feeling overwhelmed or if I was feeling anxious. What they said resonated with me, and I still use it. Since the space of a year and going to Lifelink, things have really moved.”

The 36-year-old now works as a volunteer with people with special needs and plans to do his counselling course in the future.

He added: “One of the biggest problems about mental health is the stigma and one of the reasons I want to talk about it is that I want to challenge that stigma.

“I’m not ashamed of having had depression for over 10 years and having to see a counsellor to get a wee bit of extra help, that’s why I’m happy to talk about it.”

As a board member, Sadie Gordon has seen the social enterprise evolve over the 24 years she has been in the role.

Only recently stepping down, the 75-year-old said she still saw a need for the service since its humbler beginnings.

Sadie_Gordonedit_portraitShe says: “That’s one reason that I felt it’s really worthwhile. It enabled people to go somewhere and talk over their troubles and get help.

“And if you can help one person, you can help more.

“The one thing about Lifelink is that it’s accessible for people from all parts of life. You walk in that front door, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, you’re made very welcome.”

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