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BLOG: Breaking mental health stigma at our free weekly mental health community group in Sele Farm

17 May 2024

By Sandra Stride, Mental Health Liaison Officer

Nine people sat around a table at the Mix cafe eventWhile everyone’s mental health is unique to them, it can make a huge difference to connect with people over similar mental ill health experiences and challenges. This can also make people feel less alone in what they are going through. In celebration of Mental Health Awareness week, I want to put the spotlight on Mix Cafe. This mental health drop-in community group in Sele Farm, Hertford meets every Thursday from 12pm to 3.30pm and is run by a local SNG resident, with help from our Mental Health Liaison team at SNG. Mix Cafe aims to break the stigma around mental health by bringing people together to socialise and talk openly about their mental health in a relaxed setting.

Michael Newman, who is on his own journey with his mental health, set up Mix Cafe in 2021. Michael felt the community would benefit from a drop in café where like-minded people could get together to speak freely and engage in an environment where they are in the same situation. We interviewed Michael when he first set up Mix Cafe and he described wanting to ‘challenge negative stereotypes and provide a safe space for anyone wanting to talk about mental ill health, and ensure people with these issues are treated like human beings.' Michael has dedicated a huge amount of time and energy into this project and created a strong sense of community spirit at the weekly sessions.

The Mix Cafe is still going strong today, meeting every Thursday from 12 to 3.30pm at the Sele Community Hub. Recently, some local councillors came along to see it in action. The councillors pointed out how wonderful the atmosphere was, with everyone connecting and enjoying this safe space. Having trained my dog Mouse as a therapy dog, she is very much part of the Mix Cafe team too, and is very popular -she’s built her own celebrity status at the cafe now!

Mental health is a crucial aspect of our overall wellbeing, yet it often goes unnoticed and untreated. With the increasing number of individuals struggling with mental health issues, there is a growing need for accessible and inclusive support systems. This is where Mix Cafe comes in, providing a safe place that provides companionship, resources as well as a sense of community for those dealing with mental health challenges. Mix Cafe is breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and promoting a more open and understanding society. One of the main reasons people avoid seeking help for their mental health is the fear of being judged. Peer support can be incredibly beneficial for those with mental health issues as connecting with others who have gone through similar experiences can help people feel less alone and more understood.

The Mix Cafe is a place where everyone can share their stories, learn from others, and build a support network within their own community. It is vital that these drop-in clinics continue to be supported and promoted to ensure that everyone has access to spaces that nurture their mental health.

Together, we can work towards a healthier and more inclusive society.

The group meets on Thursday from 12pm to 3.30pm at the Sele Community Hub, Fleming Crescent, Sele Farm, Hertford

Read our interview with Michael, founder of Mix Cafe

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