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SAFA charity boss scoops invite to Royal Wedding

Cindy Daltioni, CEO of SAFA, was among the hundreds of guests invited to the grounds of Windsor Castle for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

A BARROW charity boss found herself amongst royalty after being invited to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Cindy Daltioni, CEO of self harm awareness charity SAFA was among the hundreds asked invited to the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Dozens of ordinary men and women were guests at the wedding because of the important work they do for their community.

It was day to remember, and the invitation was a nice recognition of the work that SAFA does in our community

Mrs Daltioni described her inclusion and the recognition of SAFA as a proud moment.

She said “It was amazing.  We really were treated like royalty.  We were within about 10ft of everybody.

“It was a beautiful day, and we had lots of space to see the action from the front, and take lots of photographs.  It was a day to remember, and the invitation was a nice recognition of the work that SAFA does in our community.”

For several years Prince Harry has been a champion of mental health awareness. Founder of the Heads Together charity, he has spoken out of the trauma he suffered following the death of his mother Princess Diana, and the importance of speaking more openly about mental health.

On mental health, the Prince has said:  “It is OK to have depression, it is OK to have anxiety and it is OK to have an adjustment disorder.

“We need to improve the conversation.  We all have mental health in the same way we all have physical health.”

Mrs Daltioni would like to use the opportunity given by the royal wedding to highlight the work of the charity, and further encourage people to speak about mental health problems.

She said:  “I haven’t met anybody that has not had a struggle in their life. For Prince Harry to start talking about it [his own mental health], it was huge.

“I’ve had two people come through this year to thank SAFA, saying they would not be here if not for us.  That is what keeps me going.”

Evidence to support teaching Mindfulness in schools

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Barrow charity thanks landlord for help in time of crisis

He simply stepped in to help a struggling charity when they found themselves out on the street..

But when Furness businessman, Bob Heron, agreed to let a building to Self Harm Awareness for the Furness Area, he had no idea how big a part of his life the cause would become. Having watched the work of the team at his property in 114 Duke Street, Barrow, Mr Heron was so inspired that he signed up to the charity’s board of directors. SAFA arranged to rent the Duke Street base last year, after the team was forced to move out of Waterside House in Barrow.

Barrow Borough Council served all 19 tenants with an eviction notice in March, giving the small groups and businesses until June 1 to move out, after leasing the building to BAE Systems. Mr Heron, the managing director of two Barrow firms, Subconsult and Hydrotest UK, said he was only too pleased to help SAFA.

“I’d moved out of my Duke Street premises and it was empty so when I heard about SAFA looking for somewhere new, I was only too pleased to help and try and make a difference,” Mr Heron said. “They do a fantastic job and I’m a firm believer in trying to give something back to the community.”

SAFA chief executive Cindy Daltioni said, the team could not be happier with their new home or more grateful for Mr Heron’s contribution. She said: “He has been 150 per cent supportive of the charity and its work.

“He was so moved by it and, the more he’s got to know it, the more he’s wanted to be part of it.” As a thank you, SAFA has named its base Heron House.

Mrs Daltioni said: “Mainly it’s about recognising his efforts. He’s really got on board, and he’s done things that most landlords wouldn’t even think about.” On Monday, SAFA proudly unveiled its newly-revamped building to the public.

Having started in Barrow in 2006 and gradually extending through the South Lakes, SAFA is now preparing to expand its service county-wide from March. Talking about the success of her staff, volunteers and directors, Mrs Daltioni said: “Just to be able to show what we’ve achieved, how far we’ve come, it means lots to be able to share that with other people.

“I feel really blessed.”

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Barrow woman tells of battle with mental health issues

SINCE opening in 2006, Self Harm Awareness for the Furness Area has seen an increasing demand for its help, and is now preparing to takes its services county-wide. Today, two women with first-hand experience of the value of SAFA’s work share their stories with EMMA PRESTON

Just four years ago, Kelly Dickinson’s life was spiralling out of control. Anorexia and bulimia had seen her weight drop to just five stones, and the Barrow teenager was admitted to an adolescent mental health unit in Manchester, miles from her Kent Street home.

Then just 16, she struggled with her weight-gain treatment and found an unhealthy and dangerous way to cope. Now 20, Kelly explains: “It got to a point where I was cutting myself every day. “When I spoke to them about it, they said it is a pattern they do see occur. Because they’re taking the control away from you in a way, you’re finding a way to compensate.” Kelly’s self-harm saw her hospitalised several times, as she did serious damage to her arms and legs.

SHARING HER STORY Natasha Kroger-Wyllie, right, with Emma Preston

After four months of this, she recalls: “I was allowed to come home for a day – and this makes you think how you must have been in a totally different state of mind because it wouldn’t even go through my head now – but I bought a craft knife and took it back to the hospital with me.

“I needed 25 stitches in my arm. That’s the moment when I thought, ‘It’s getting out of control’. It hit me how bad it had gotten and it scared me.”

When Kelly was discharged after nine months in Manchester, both problems continued as she struggled to access ongoing support. “If I’d lived in Manchester,” she explains, “they’ve got the groups there. You can keep going back. But because I was 100 miles away I was cut off.” Fortunately for Kelly, she found Self Harm Awareness for the Furness Area, and has received weekly counselling from the charity since April 2010. Today the beautiful, charming young woman in front of me is a world away from the troubled youngster she describes.

She says: “Within the first year, I stopped cutting myself altogether.

“There are still days I struggle with how I look and what I eat but, compared to a couple of years ago, it’s amazing. “I don’t think you ever completely recover, I think it’s always going to be a part of me. But there has been a big change. They’ve been a lifesaver.” Now just a week from finishing counselling, Kelly is set to volunteer for SAFA. She will start by helping out around Heron House, the charity’s Duke Street base, before training to become a counsellor herself.

Asked what that means to her, her eyes fill with tears.

“That’s the only thing that’s kept me going,” she admits, “the thought that I can actually help someone in that situation. “People should never be scared to get help. I had friends in hospital who’ve actually died since, and it shouldn’t be like that. I don’t want people to suffer in silence.” Kelly is one of 340 people helped by SAFA since 2006. The charity receives referrals from GPs and community mental health teams, as well as looking after those who seek help directly. Chief executive, Cindy Daltioni, says her four full-time staff, 12 bank counsellors and around eight volunteers work tirelessly.

“We’re restructuring now,” she tells me, “we’re taking on bigger caseloads. We’ll be looking at increasing staff levels, but it’s up to us to find the funding for that. “I am proud of what we’ve achieved. It’s grown from this little sapling to this huge oak.”

Cindy feels the increase in demand could be due to more people being aware of the charity and being more willing to admit their problems. “Self-harm is any behaviour we use to cope to deal with life’s issues that has a negative impact on us, physically or mentally,” she explains. “We’ve all done it in some way.”

Once a small Barrow-based service, SAFA now operates throughout the South Lakes and is due to go county-wide from March.

One woman who has benefited from the charity’s ability to reach beyond the Furness peninsula is Natasha Kroger-Wyllie. For five months, the 22-year-old has been visited by a counsellor near her home in Kendal once a week.

Her problems came to a head when, having struggled with anorexia and binge-eating since she was 15, she went to university in Chester. Her weight dropped dramatically and, having been hospitalised after not eating or drinking for a week, she moved home after three months. From then on, life was a constant blur of hospital admissions as she carried on starving herself.

Natasha explains: “I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment at coming home, on top of all the feelings I’d already been dealing with.

“My mood deteriorated towards being suicidal.”

After being admitted to a psychiatric unit, Natasha’s weight dropped further. Things became so bad she was sectioned and spent eight months in a Manchester treatment centre. “In a way, it made it worse,” she tells me. The people surrounding you are completely unhealthy, but I would look at them and think, ‘that’s what I should be’. “It put the idea in my head that you could get that bad and still be alive.”

Natasha returned home when she was 19, but continued to struggle. An unhealthy relationship, deciding to move out on her own and being without anyone who understood her condition all took their toll. Eventually she found SAFA and is already reaping the benefits of their support.

“In our area, there really isn’t any specialist help for people with these kinds of problems,” she says.

“But my SAFA counsellor, she’s experienced her own issues, and I think that’s what made it work. It’s only now I’m here looking back that I see how far I’ve come.”

Natasha has shared her story in a bid to raise awareness and drum up support for SAFA as it continues to stretch its services even further afield. She said: “The need for it is just huge, there really is not enough in our area.

“It, or services like it, need to be more widely available. SAFA’s the best thing that’s happened to me since all this started. I think it’s amazing.”

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Self Harm And Eating Disorders Conference

SAFA recently celebrated the success of our first Self-Harm and Eating Disorders conference, held on 21 September 2016 at Newton Rigg College, Penrith. The conference brought together 62 practitioners from education, social care, health and third sectors. The morning included three thought-provoking but different lectures. In the afternoon delegates attended a range of workshops.

Dr Andy Siddaway, Clinical Psychologist and Research Fellow at the University of Stirling gave an interesting account of his work in identifying and measuring key cognitions in suicidal and non-suicidal self-harm to better understand the similarities and differences in thinking that underpin these behaviours so that we can develop more effective interventions, reduce stigma, and improve quality of life.

Dr Gillian Rayner, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing from the University of Salford presented a paper on the cycle of shame in self-harm and her study of interpersonal processes between staff and clients.

Liz Bolt, Consultant Psychologist at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust delivered a lecture and workshop on eating disorders and personality disorders which looked at family involvement and the Maudsley model.

Samreen Khan, Counsellor at SAFA and private practice delivered an experiential workshop on Working with Cultural Difference. Self-harm can affect anyone, however research has shown that people from ethnic minority communities find it harder to access mainstream services. Studies have shown that young black and Asian females are at increased risk of self-harm and suicide. The workshop helped delegates to identify their understanding of culture and its impact on practice and develop their capacity to work with difference.

Tara Stone, Development Manager at Be: Trans Support & Development North delivered a workshop on Barriers to Mental Health Service Access for Transgender People. Self-harm and suicide rates are substantially higher for transgender people than the general population. Yet despite this many trans people don’t get the help they require from mental health services. This workshop highlighted those barriers and explored ways to remove or minimise them.

Danny Banks (Specialist Advisory Teacher, Autism Spectrum Conditions) and Kate Holliday (Specialist HLTA, Autism Spectrum Conditions) delivered workshops on Autism and Communication. Communication develops differently for many people with autism. It is thought that about half of people with autism engage in self-injurious behaviours and 20-30% engage in self-harm at some point in their lives. This workshop offered guidance on communicating with people with autism in order to effectively support them.

Karen Gates, Specialist Dietician for ANIS (Anorexia Nervosa Intensive Service) at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust delivered Practical Approaches for Managing Anorexia Nervosa from her perspective as a dietician.

Gill Schwer, Focus Family Manager at Cumbria County Council delivered workshops on Whole Family Working. This workshop covered the benefits of whole family working, the impact of family dynamics on members of the family and wider influences on mental health.

The feedback has been extremely positive, with the average overall satisfaction being 4.7 out of 5 (5 being excellent).

“Thanks so much for organising such an informative and thought provoking conference.”

“I really enjoyed the conference, all of the speakers were excellent and very obviously experts in their field.”

“I learned something in each session.”

Co-op Local Community Funding

SAFA have been selected to be part of the Co-op Local Community Fund through the Co-op store on Plymouth Street, Walney.

It means that we will get a contribution towards supporting people who self harm, but we need your help.

The more support we get, the more funding we could receive. So if you’re a Co-op Member log in to your Co-op Membership account and choose us.

If you’re not a member, please join and support us!