Cafe hoping to reach teens in crisis with new ‘safe space’ venture


A cafe in Hartlepool offers so much more than what’s on the menu – it provides a safe space for people to talk.

LilyAnne’s Coffee Bar may look like any popular high street venue, but it was created as a community business to offer people friendship and understanding when facing mental health issues, social isolation or loneliness.

Now, due to the rise in youth suicides, the Victoria Road outlet is launching a We Listen group to make young people over the age of 16 feel comfortable talking about their issues.

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As part of the launch, organizers have placed 300 special cards around the city containing codes that young people can scan to get more help and advice on mental health issues. And in four days, 55 of the cards had been activated.

Trevor Sherwood, project development manager at the cafe, said the new social group will launch next month. He said: “We are looking to create a safe place where young people over the age of 16 can go and talk and be listened to.”

Trevor Sherwood, project development manager at LilyAnne’s Coffee Bar in Hartlepool.

He said that when it comes to mental health groups, there are quite a few, but they are only for those over 18. However, LilyAnne felt that something needed to be offered to people a bit younger, who are at risk of taking their own lives.

Trevor said many young people don’t realize they’re in a mental health crisis and many of them don’t want to burden family and friends with their issues. He said sometimes they don’t realize they can go to the doctor for help and they just don’t know where to turn.

He said: “In four days, 55 people have scanned the code on the cards and five have contacted the cafe, which is great. If 55 people have scanned them, even if it’s just out of curiosity, that means 55 people now have more information so they can support others.”

Trevor said: “We find that a lot of young men, aged 16 to 21, just don’t come forward with their issues. I think there’s a lot of stigma and they think about the old-fashioned idea that they should adopt. We want them to realize that real men talk rather than bottle it all up.”

LilyAnne’s is a non-profit community interest company, and already this year, a staggering 556 people at the point of crisis have contacted her.

The idea behind the adventure is that anyone can enjoy a good coffee, with family, friends or alone, with the added bonus of being able to take advantage of the support on offer. The goal is to reduce feelings resulting from social isolation and loneliness while creating camaraderie.

Volunteers and staff believe that being better connected to others improves well-being and that the best way to reduce disturbing feelings and thoughts is to be around people.

Trevor, who is starting the We Listen business with Alexander Gray, said they already have ten volunteers in place who want to help and support young people. For more information, visit here.



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