Power to the People – How can we empower ourselves?

By Stacey Marriott – Night Light Crisis Cafe Coordinator

I was recently offered a course of therapy sessions, and as a firm believer that such activity is beneficial to all, whether they are feeling the need for it or not, I jumped at the chance. Over the course of seven sessions, with the assistance of the therapist I identified areas of my life which were troublesome and in need of some work. I learnt strategies for managing these situations better and discovered so much about the inner workings of my mind.

During the penultimate session the therapist asked me how I had found the activity, over all. A picture jumped into my head of myself and the therapist side by side on an archaeological dig, and I explained that I felt like she had provided me with tools and had taught me how to dig and would now be stepping away and I would be equipped to continue the work alone. This was a powerful image of empowerment and it has made me reflect on our role at the Night Light cafe

Over the past year, since the Night Light Cafes first opened, our team have been learning what it means to be ‘future-thinking’ and to truly act in the best interests of the people we support. One of the values of Acts Trust is empowerment, and as the Night Light Cafe service develops we are exploring how we can work in the best long term interests of those we support by helping them to strengthen their own support networks and reach out for help from other specialist agencies to address specific issues they might be facing which might be contributing to their mental health struggles, such as debt or lack of a social network. We have the pleasure of working with the social prescribing teams whose job is to do just that; to work alongside people, connecting them with activities and services which can help them progress into a better place. The Night Light team is all about sitting alongside people during their crisis and showing them compassion and kindness and care, but this on it’s own is not enough in the long term as the needs of our guests can not all be addressed over a cup of tea in one of our cafes. This is why we also call ourselves ‘signposting advisers’ and have committed to learning how to use the Restore Triage system which identifies an individual’s areas of need to enable us to signpost effectively. 

Also central to the ethos of Acts Trust is the recognition that there is no ‘us and them’ mentality. All humans have needs, we are all broken, and all people should commit to developing their own resilience and finding solutions to their own problems with the support they are offered. In the context of Night Light, we don’t see our volunteer team or staff as being the ones with all the answers, able to fix the guests who come in, but rather that the volunteers are at a point in their journey where they feel able to offer support to others who might need some extra assistance to get them through a crisis. Sometimes volunteers and staff need to step away from the service for a while if they feel they need to focus on their own wellbeing for a period of time, and sometimes people who have previously used the service now find themselves in a position when they want to come back as peer volunteers and offer some support to others. 

Everyone has mental health and we all have a responsibility to steward as best we can. Life is a journey! How about we all challenge ourselves today to identify an area in our lives that needs more balance, and make a plan to create a change. If you are struggling to think of anything, here are some examples:

  • Reassess your boundaries. Perhaps you should consider deleting your work email from your phone, or turning your phone off completely sometimes.
  • Think about your lifestyle. Plan a healthy meal and go for a walk, or do a YouTube exercise routine.
  • Have you been looking after your relationships? Phone a friend or text someone you haven’t connected with in a while to arrange to meet up. 
  • Book yourself onto a course with the Recovery College, or find some online CBT exercises. 

If you’d like to get involved or donate to the work of Acts, please check out our ‘How You Can Help’ page!

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