Charity helps former nurse Irene learn to laugh again

Former nurse Irene Vickers is an example of the people that the Motherwell Cheshire charity has helped during Covid-19.

The group provide a service for women by women, promoting positive health and wellbeing by offering a range of educational services, holistic therapies and mental health support.

The Steve Morgan Foundation’s Covid-19 Emergency Fund awarded Motherwell Cheshire £10,000 to help them maintain their services during the pandemic and offer a new befriending service for people like Irene Vickers.

The 63-year-old worked for many years as a NHS nurse before having to give up work to become a full time carer to her husband for over 10 years. 

Sadly he died in May 2020 and Irene was increasingly anxious about how she would cope as she suffers from a heart and lung condition herself as well as having a history of depression.

Although blessed with a supportive family she approached her GP in November 2019 who offered her telephone counselling but Irene declined this as she felt she would benefit much more from face-to-face counselling.

Instead she was referred to Motherwell Cheshire for counselling and joined their befriending helpline whilst waiting for counselling. 

The service offers a 30 minute call from the charity’s team of trained volunteers, usually weekly and usually with the same person. The aim is to build up a rapport or trust, where they feel at ease to talk about any issues they have or ask for help or advice. The volunteers are all experienced women with a wealth of knowledge and understanding. 

Kate Blakemore, founder and CEO of Motherwell Cheshire, said: “When we initially contacted Irene she was still struggling with the demands of regular visits from carers whilst supporting her very poorly husband. 

“We struggled to speak on the first two occasions, as the timing was never right, but eventually we made contact and our volunteer Debbie and Irene hit it off straight away.

“Sadly, shortly after making contact, Irene’s husband passed away. Despite being very busy with funeral arrangements, answering well meaning calls and texts and supporting her family, Irene made time for our befriending helpline call from Debbie.”

Irene said: “Debbie has given me a purpose in life. What was a dark and dismal place is now a light shining at the end of the tunnel. I had forgotten how to laugh. The trust I have with Debbie, we both just end up laughing at antidotes which is great.

“Without vital funding to Motherwell and people like Debbie I could not talk honestly about my feelings good or bad. So a huge thank you to all the sponsors for your kind donations in these difficult financial times. It is appreciated.”

Motherwell Cheshire  was founded five years ago by Kate Blakemore after recognising a gap in the mental health support provided to mums. It has since extended its services to include girls and women.

In 2019 they supported 354 women and girls, many of whom don’t engage with other organisations.

Kate said: “When Covid-19 struck it had a big impact on our ability to fundraise. We have an office in Winsford and a satellite office in Crewe and we had to pay the rent.

“We had a massive influx of new mums needing support and from mums who were struggling to stay in contact with their children. This caused feelings of loneliness and isolation. Covid-19 has made everybody’s mental health worse and hit their confidence.

“As we slowly move out of lockdown, we are seeing a need for or a more focussed mental health support service to be offered. We are hearing from people who don’t normally struggle with their mental health suffered anxiety and stress.

“Many of our women are mums struggling to work and home school,  leading them to feel stressed and impacted them both physically and emotionally. 

“Our counselling waiting list is currently sitting at five months. We are offering telephone/ online counselling but most are choosing to wait for face-to-face counselling.”

Motherwell Cheshire adapted their services, transferring some online and launching a befriending helpline service for women who were feeling isolated, anxious and depressed.

They’ve just resumed face-to-face counselling and said the £10,000 they received from the Steve Morgan Foundation was a ‘lifeline’.

Kate explained: “It enabled us to get mobile phones for our befrienders and launch our new befriending service to help people like Irene. It’s made us feel more secure and given us hope.”

Jane Harris, director of regional funding for the Steve Morgan Foundation, said: “Irene’s story is a brilliant example of why it’s so important that services have been maintained during the pandemic.”

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