Cogwheel Trust celebrates 30 years of city service
Wellbeing divide haunts city: charity has vital role in challenging times
Since it was founded 30 years ago, the Cogwheel Trust has provided more than 90,000 counselling sessions, helping more than 20,000 people in Cambridgeshire – and the need for its services has never been greater, guests at Magdalene College heard last week.
As a private charitable trust, Cogwheel works with the NHS but when those services simply do not meet the demands of the community – usually because of high demand – organisations like Cogwheel are left picking up where the NHS leaves off but with limited resources and little support from public initiatives.
The trust launched a new initiative aimed at raising wellbeing issues in the workplace at the event in the master’s garden, hosted by the master of Magdalene College, Dr Rowan Williams. Attendees heard that 91 million working days are lost every year through mental health and stress-releated issues.
Neil Prem, head of enterprise engagement at Allia, said that the lack of a co-ordinated HR policy allows many people in work to sideline their distress – as he did for many years when he experienced long-lasting depression, which he covered up at the time.
He said that “listening is the highest form of hospitality there is” and celebrated the importance of counselling services such as those provided by Cogwheel – especially to those who survive their darkest hours.
“When they then use that pain to be a wind in their sails to propel themselves forward they are something to be reckoned with,” he said of the aftermath of wellbeing traumas.
Head of counselling Esther McNeill highlighted Cogwheel’s ability to help create a dialogue about wellbeing, citing Stephen Fry, the Duke of Cambridge and Ruby Wax as being among those who have spoken out about their own problems.
“Cambridge is one of the most unequal cities in the UK,” she added, “which is not something we ought to be proud of and is something we ought to do our best to rectify.
“Very often, six sessions of cognitive behaviour therapy won’t resolve it.”
“The good news is that at the end of their treatment at Cogwheel 75 per cent of clients are either emotionally healthy or significantly less distressed.
That could be a new mum who has got over post-natal depression or a father who’s had anger management therapy or a maths teacher who is less stressed. Counselling is about connecting with people too because when people feel heard it’s good not just for them but also for the people around them.”
Mental ill health has a devastating impact on families. A struggling parent cannot be emotionally available to their children. About 130 of our 2016 clients had children living at home. This knock-on effect also impacts partners and other family and community members.
As people emerge from distressed and anxious states they are able to get back to work and reconnect with home life and community. Children need support when they struggle in the family or at school. Early intervention can prevent more serious problems, like school-refusal, from emerging. Cogwheel’s children’s work is currently heavily over-subscribed, but the hope is to expand it and re-open the family therapy service.
Cambridge is a city that operates at extreme and opposite ends of the economic spectrum. Poverty and homelessness is rampant despite the great wealth and development of the city and the university. Leading research is conducted in a large variety of fields and large amounts of funding exist for these studies, yet mental health organizations, clinics, and centres constantly suffer from a lack of funding.
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