St Albans counselling centre reports spike in inquiries over mental health

Head of marketing Becci Murtagh, mayor Salih Gaygusuz, St Albans centre leader Fiona Di Leo, St Alba

Head of marketing Becci Murtagh, mayor Salih Gaygusuz, St Albans centre leader Fiona Di Leo, St Albans and district mental health champion cllr Anthony Rowlands - Credit: Archant

With mental health issues continuing to hit the headlines, a long-running counselling centre in St Albans has re-launched at a time when inquiries for help have risen sharply.

The Counselling Foundation, Lower Dagnall Street, officially re-opened its refurbished head office in St Albans recently.

Robert Cuming, CEO, said the foundation offered about 30,000 sessions per annum across its five centres throughout Herts and Beds, including NHS work.

He said: “We see 175 clients a week at our head office, and between July and November last year we had a 20 per cent increase in inquiries for affordable counselling in St Albans alone.”

Robert said the revamp included soundproofing and modernising of the premises, and had resulted in an open plan office on the ground floor, while clients could receive counselling in private upstairs.

The organisation is a leading charity providing counselling and counsellor training to help improve the mental health of people living in Herts and Beds.

A primary aim is to give people on low incomes access to affordable, long term counselling which is not available elsewhere in the two counties.

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Since being founded in 1974, it has become one of the largest counselling and training centres outside of London.

St Albans Mayor, Cllr Salih Gaygusuz, and Cllr Anthony Rowlands, mental health champion for St Albans, attended the launch.

Cllr Gaygusuz said: “It is particularly important in these stressful times in which we live that everyone has access to counselling.

“What the Counselling Foundation offers is invaluable to the community. They provide much-needed help at an affordable rate based on what people can pay and their employment status.

“Also, the sessions offered here are open-ended, which allows for clients to take their time to open up and talk about whatever is affecting them – bereavement, relationships, addictions or work-related stress.”

Cllr Rowlands said that locally, as well as nationally, there had been concerted campaigns to raise the profile of mental health needs and “challenge stigma”.

• The Duchess of Cambridge, a strong advocate of children’s mental health care and emotional wellbeing, has featured in the mainstream media recently after recording a video message saying that young people should be supported through difficult times in their lives.

• In 2014/15, 1.8 million people in England used mental health services, with 103,840 being admitted to hospital.

• A major recent study by the Health & Social Care Information Centre found that men and women living in lower income households were more likely to have been diagnosed with a mental illness than those living in higher income households.

• The Mental Health Foundation says that poor mental health has a profound impact on the lives of people – with an estimated cost to society of between £70-100 billion a year. Yet just a quarter of people with mental health problems receive treatment.