Always an Open Door….

Step into the Open Door Centre in Wallasey, and immediately there is a sense of a warm welcome, but accompanied by a very chilled-out environment. The perfect contrast!

And that provides the ideal setting for the work of this ever-growing charity, whose many facets are centred mainly around offering invaluable support and guidance to young people from the local community.

As Director Lee Pennington explains, there are three main strands to the work of the Open Door Centre, which is run as a membership organisation, free and, as the name suggests, open to all.

“The first strand is around offering free, and immediate support and a creative adaptation of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for young people who are feeling down, or stressed or anxious,” he says.

“Strand two is around volunteering and training opportunities, and getting the community involved in what we are delivering here on a day to day basis.

“In that way what we do can be shaped by a group of volunteers or mentors, whereby we can encourage people to become involved and maybe even go into further education or training.

“And the final strand is about music and the arts, and trying to leverage discussions around mental health and depression and tackle the stigmas and misunderstandings by using the world of music and creativity.

“It is about offering an alternative to the clinical NHS approach, which is the only other place where these issues are talked about or support can be accessed.

“So we are not a mental health charity or an arts organisation or a training provider, but instead something between all three!”

It is certainly proving a winning combination.

Lee continues:  “The benefits that the different strands bring is that we work with a very diverse group, and since opening we have supported over 750 young people in the therapeutic side of things.

“One thing that really sums up what the charity is about is that there is a 50-50 split between male and female.

“And when you talk about mental health and depression and anxiety, that equal split is not reflected elsewhere with GP access rates, suicide statistics and associated factors.

“On top of that a lot of the young people who access the charity are often then encouraged to move from the support element to the volunteering and training side.

“There is the opportunity to go on and become a staff-based volunteer or a mentor, and turn what has been a negative period of their life into something more positive.

“That is one of the key mechanisms of the charity, a self-perpetuating cycle of support, training and experience.

“We just give the capacity to members of the community to come together and support each other in a unique and laid-back environment, and in a bright, welcoming and artistic way.”

The Steve Morgan Foundation has helped the Open Door Centre with an £18,000 donation to help with running costs over a three-year period.

Lee said that grant was particularly well-timed.

“The support has been amazing, and came at a vital stage of our development,” he explains.

“From first applying and then receiving the funding, it gave us the chance to move from a nice cute and cuddly charity to something which is now completely unrecognisable.

“We are now far more of a vital support mechanism for Mental Health on the Wirral.

“The grant has helped set us up to move into an exciting new era and the next stage of our development as we aim to keep growing and not just sit back.

“We are continuing to innovate as much as possible around the sector, to meet an ever-increasing demand in a way where we can give just as much importance to the artistic side as well.

“The core is driven by supporting people when they need it in a way which looks and feels like nothing else which is available out there, and always free of charge, and with no waiting lists.”

With its colourful décor and unique laid-back charm, it is no surprise that the Open Door Centre has proved such a popular and worthwhile cause for so many young people since its inception.

Indeed, never perhaps has a charity been more aptly named….

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