Lean On Me

JOHN BARBER is one of the leaders of the Chapel in the town-centre, and has been active in the town for a number of years, for the benefit of the local population.

Now, he’s stepped back from one such activity, after five years: first as a Trustee and later, as an employee.

JOHN WAS in at the beginning of TRUST LINKS, which is probably best known for it’s GROWING TOGETHER garden in Prittlewell, on the corner of Fairfax Drive and Prittlewell Chase.

A committed Christian, John felt challenged, through his faith, to face up to the subject of Mental Illness and to consider long-term involvement, in helping those who suffer from such illnessess. Around this time, he was then to be prompted by a friend, to seriously consider taking such a course. This was late ’90s, by now.

John wasn’t exactly a stranger to some of the issues surrounding Mental Illness, having previously struggled with depression – and also with reconcilling the experience whilst having a strong faith in Jesus Christ. He was well aware, that people with Mental Illness still found the church an attractive place to be…an awareness tempered with the knowledge that the local church needed better resources and more education, when it came to dealing with the ongoing needs of such vulnerable people.

The realisation that the statutory services were often unable to meet such needs generally, only served to make him more determined to address these matters as best he could, at least within his own possible sphere of influence.

Government statistics suggest that, at any one time, one-in-six of us is experiencing a mental health problem.

JOHN BARBER was there when representitives of different local churches began meeting in 1999/2000 to address these matters. They wanted to help people suffering from mental illness, both inside and outside ‘the church’ – and where their agendas matched, to work alongside those working in the same field, such as professional Mental Health Workers. Amid much discussion, early work saw support given, to some sufferers.

The opportunity to do more, came in 2001 when the group was able to bid for money under a government Urban Regeneration agenda, designed to tackle matters such as economic deprivation and social exclusion, on a local level.

The idea for GROWING TOGETHER was mooted and the project began in April 2001.

TRUST LINKS back then, had several objectives:-

>> to develop a therapeutic garden, to benefit their clients – for want of a better term – and the community (‘Growing Together’);

>> develop a resource centre;

>> provide practical and emotional support to individuals;

>> deliver Mental Health Awareness training to churches, schools and businesses;

>> to take part in research to better identify the issues and better inform others;

>> to work with existing networks and develop new ones

A lot was achieved towards all of these aims, although the success of the GROWING TOGETHER Garden/Allotment rather overshadowed the other good work done! Which included:-

>> developing the Southend Mental Health Directory;

>> developing projects to support young people who are vulnerable (‘Time To Choose’);

>> developing projects to support carers of those with mental illness (‘Breakthrough’)

After several years of being involved in the lives of many individuals, and of sharing some of their joys and sorrows, John now feels that the preparation and pioneering phases have passed, and that it’s only right to leave the baton for someone else, as an employee – which he has done, when he left at the end of 2005.

There is still much work to be done, of course, but the key elements are now in place, to take it forward! Please remember the work of Trust Links, and Growing Together, in your prayers.

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