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News article

City-wide celebration to thank pandemic’s mental health professionals

Published: 27 April 2022

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A woman at a lectern addresses a crowd

Joy Cullwick, Lady Mayoress of York, addresses guests at the Mansion House event.

The Civic Party of York, together with York St John University and York College, held a celebratory evening at the Mansion House to recognise the contribution made by mental health professionals across the city during the pandemic. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on society’s overall mental health. The services that support people suffering with mental ill-health have been placed under considerable strain as more and more seek help for themselves and loved ones. Both York St John and York College have supported students throughout the pandemic, responding to the impact of lockdowns and enforced online work on the mental health and wellbeing of both students and staff. As well as offering internal support, the York St John Communities Centre provides accessible wellbeing interventions to the public, free at the point of access for those in crisis. Over the last two years, the team have expanded their work at an unprecedented rate in response to the mental health crisis brought about by the pandemic. 

The event on Tuesday 26 April brought together around 100 York-based mental health professionals working in the NHS, private practice, the voluntary sector and education. Representatives from organisations in attendance included City of York Council, the NHS, The Retreat, Kyra, Survive, York Mind, York Women’s Counselling Service, Cruse Bereavement Support, IDAS, YCVS, Bootham School, St Peter's School, Archbishop Holgate’s School, University of York, York Mental Health Partnership Board, The Haven, The Hut, Inspire North, The Railway Mission, St John Ambulance and the British Army Nursing Corps. 

The evening included speeches from Joy Cullwick, Lady Mayoress of York, Professor Lynne Gabriel, Director of the York St John Communities Centre and Tim Madgwick, Independent Chair of York Mental Health Partnership Board. There was also live music from a York St John University student music ensemble and Olivia Graham, a Celtic musician and steward at the Mansion House. Guests had the opportunity to network and look around the historic Mansion House. 

The Lady Mayoress of York, Joy Cullwick, was the lead organiser of the event. With a background in counselling and psychotherapy, she described what motivated her: 

“Throughout our term in office the Civic Party has heard over and over again about the ‘tsunami’ of mental health difficulties affecting people in all sectors of our community in the wake of the pandemic. We recognised the pressure this incredible tide was placing on our mental health professionals and organised this event as a token of our appreciation for the time and care they have devoted during this difficult period and will continue to devote going forward.”  

The event was held in partnership with the York St John Communities Centre. The Centre, based at York St John University, offers high quality, accessible counselling and mental health services to people in York and North Yorkshire. There are currently over 70 practitioners and trainees, including undergraduate and postgraduate students on placement in the Centre and involved in providing counselling, Cuppa & Conversation groups, Chat Café drop-ins and Bereavement Support groups. Alongside counselling and mental health services, the Centre also conducts research into current issues in mental health, including bereavement and loss, domestic and partner abuse and the provision of online counselling and support services. 

Professor Lynne Gabriel, Director of the York St John Communities Centre, said: 

“We are proud to be a key mental health and wellbeing service provider in York. The Centre creates a gateway through which people can access help for mental ill-health. Alongside other providers, we offer meaningful and rewarding placements for practitioner trainees. We also train mental health and wellbeing practitioners at York St John. Our training programmes prepare people for a wide range of practitioner roles in the mental health field – from mental health nursing to occupational therapy, counselling, psychology and the facilitation of wellbeing through creative arts and humanities.  

“Human wellness during the pandemic has been severely challenged and the human spirit sorely tested. We may need to move on with our lives yet mustn’t forget the lives lost to covid-19 nor the challenges faced by those providing health and mental health support.” 

In March 2020, Dr John Wilson, Director of Bereavement Services at the York St John Communities Centre, set up a mutual support group on social media for those bereaved by Covid-19. Providing a vital community of support when services were closed or severely restricted, members with shared experiences could express their feelings without fear or judgement. This was just one of several ways staff and practitioner students from the York St John Communities Centre supported people during the pandemic. They also provided vital online video and telephone support on a one-to-one and group basis.  

Find out more information about the York St John Communities Centre.

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