TACKLING MENTAL HEALTH - THE WORRY TREE CAFE

/ 4 January 2019

Mental health issues don’t discriminate, they can affect anyone at any moment in their lives. On an average week, a sixth of the population in England aged 16 to 64 is living with a mental health condition. Yet people often find it difficult to access the right support; resources are often overstretched, referrals can take time, or sufferers may simply not know where to turn. On Do the Right Thing, we will be talking to Millie Corke, who tells the inspirational story of how mental health crisis turned her life upside down, and how she has used her own experiences to help others with her organisation, Worry Tree Café.

 Millie’s Story:

Millie was a high-achieving twenty-something when she began to struggle with her mental health. She tried to commit suicide for the first time the day she qualified as a teacher. She tried a further two times to end her life.

Facing a tough road to recovery, and learning to rebuild her life and manage her condition, it became clear to Millie and her family that the right support was terrifyingly hard to come by. They had never been affected by mental health problems before and had no experience of navigating the system. In addition, in a small, rural community Millie felt she was the subject of gossip and misunderstanding. But Millie realised something important; ‘if I feel this way, other people must do too’. Motivated by this, she began working on an idea to bring people together. She wanted to tackle the loneliness and stigma mental health can bring sufferers and their families, and to offer guidance in accessing available resources. The Worry Tree Café was born.

The concept behind Worry Tree Café:

The Worry Tree Café concept is a very simple; for two hours at the same location every week, Millie and her small team of volunteers organise tea, coffee, and biscuits. Anyone affected – directly or indirectly – by mental health issues can drop in. The environment is warm, friendly, and non-judgemental, with lots of people chatting to other guests, who have now become friends. The most common reason for attending is loneliness, but the Café also supports people dealing with grief, depression, and a variety of other issues. Guests can access advice, but there is no obligation to talk about mental health at all; for some people, the chance to get out of the house and be sociable is the most important support the Café offers. On Do The Right Thing we speak to guests including Katrina, who is now a key volunteer and describes the amazing impact the Worry Tree Café has had on her life.

What has Millie achieved so far?

The impact of her initiative has been more powerful than Millie ever imagined. The first Worry Tree Café she set up, in Framlingham in Suffolk, regularly welcomes up to 40 guests aged between 15 – 85. The second Worry Tree Café opened in Leiston, Suffolk in October of 2018 and there are plans for more Cafés across both Suffolk and Cambridge.

Do The Right Thing

Millie and Katrina, who also helps run the two Worry Tree Cafés, were both in the studio to speak to Ruth and Eamonn about their hopes for the charity. In the conversation, Millie explained how they were aiming to go mobile, with a vehicle to help them visit schools as well as those who are less mobile. Ruth and Eamonn asked Millie and Katrina if they remembered Terry, who had come to help film them both at the Worry Tree Café. They revealed that Terry was actually an undercover millionaire, and had bought them a Worry Tree Wagon to help them on their mission of Doing The Right Thing. To Millie and Katrina’s surprise, Michael drove the Wagon into the car park, with Millie’s dad in the back of the vehicle.

If you would like to find out more about Worry Tree Café, visit: https://www.facebook.com/TheWorryTreeCafe/

For mental health advice, visit the Mind website: https://www.mind.org.uk