THE pandemic has brought mental health under the spotlight but the difficulty is to know where to go for help.
Whether it is stress, anxiety, bereavement, trauma, depression or addiction, everyone struggles with their mental health at some point. Some are short-term issues which can be easily addressed, while others need long-term help.
But every one is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, which is why Bob Baker wanted to adopt an holistic approach when he set up Cheshire Wellness Centre on Warrington Lane in Lymm.
And having struggled with his own mental health and alcohol addiction, knows first-hand the battles people face – as well as the gaps in the support available to help with his recovery.
Having regained control of his life, he is now using his own experience and is drawing on a variety of techniques to help others.
Bob said: “When I got better and looked back on my experience, I realised there are places you can go for counselling and help with mental health, but there was nowhere you can go on your whole journey.
“Sometimes when you are struggling with poor mental health, you do not feel included, and going on a walk with people helps you, rather than counselling, so I set up the centre to do more to address overall wellbeing.
“I wanted to create an inclusive environment that offers more than only counselling, something that has lots of different activities such as yoga, mindfulness, sound baths, reiki – whatever people need.”
The centre, which opened in April, 2021, works with everyone from children to adults.
Bob said: “We offer counselling for areas such as bereavement and trauma, but sometimes you need specialist techniques such as clinical hypnotherapy, nutritional therapy, life coaching or holistic reflexology.
“I want it to be a beneficial experience not just for the people we help, but also for the people who work here because it can be a stressful job and we also need to look after their wellbeing.
“In other places, people come to work, do their job and go home, but I want everyone to feel part of something that is as much about them as it is the clients.”
When Bob set up the wellness centre, he wanted to create somewhere that is safe for people to go when things get too much and The Barn at Lymm Marina was the ideal location.
The centre is in a relaxed, modern setting, with dedicated spaces for different treatments including private consultation rooms, a room for group work and therapy room with massage table for holistic treatment.
Bob said: “I wanted to help people and to have all the different offers of support in one place because clients have different needs at different times. That help can come in different guises, from a walk, reflexology, reiki, counselling, etc. Or they might be having counselling but don’t feel up to it one day and would prefer to join a group for a walk – whatever works for them.”
Education about mental health is key to everything the centre does, and as well as helping clients, Bob will be launching workshops for the workplace.
He said: “It’s all about opening a dialogue and making sure businesses and managers are aware and supportive of staff, especially those who suffer in silence.
“The cost of mental health to the workplace is enormous. It has doubled in five years to about £42 billion in terms of absenteeism, productivity and retaining people. It is a massive problem and is the biggest reason for people being off work, accounting for 40 per cent of sick days and is not going to get better.
“It is also one of the biggest reasons for sickness and absenteeism because the causes of and effects on mental health not being addressed nor are not being addressed properly.”
And while huge steps have been taken to get people talking about mental health, Bob feels there is still a long way to go.
“People need to realise it can affect anyone at any time. Someone who doesn’t suffer from poor mental health might suddenly be struggling and they need to realise that it’s okay not to be okay and to ask for help. The key is it has to come from the person who is suffering. They have to want help. It doesn’t work if you try to force things on them.”
One area Bob particularly wants to see progress being made is with men – especially younger men – asking for help.
“We grow up believing men are tough and nothing can affect them, but 75 per cent of suicides are male and we have to find different ways of reaching them that they will engage with.
“We will be launching boxing workshops which are great for exercise and fitness, as well as discipline and other areas of mental health. It is something men can enjoy and relate to and brings down a lot of the barriers they face with traditional therapy. It is somewhere they can come, feel comfortable and then take the next steps on their journey.”
And for Bob, the first-hand experience that mental health can affect everyone is what drives him and the wellness centre.
He said: “I was a salesman for 35 years and, as far as I know, never had a problem with my mental health. If someone said to me then that I would suffer and end up doing this, I would never have believed them. I was happy, I was outspoken, I was doing well at work.
“It taught me that it doesn’t matter who you are, it can affect you at any time. I do not know whether I had a breakdown, but something definitely happened and I know there were different options that would have helped if they were available at the time, which is why I launched the centre.
“And we will continue adding services and therapies as people’s needs change and grow so that we can help the person, and not just treat part of a condition.”
For more, visit cheshirewellnesscentre.co.uk