How We Started
Sunflowers Mental Health and Well-being CIC started as a sign-posting service for all ages in Hailsham, East Sussex in August 2019. The aim was to help those who need support, to find the most appropriate source of help for them.
We extended the support network to other nearby local areas to provide support where there is currently insufficient or none available through support groups and one-to-one counselling sessions.
Sunflowers started up a free 6 week counselling programme for those who were struggling with anxiety/depression. We wanted to help fill that very important gap to those waiting on a referral to other Mental Health NHS services. We also ran 3 weekly support groups at Hailsham's Children's Centre.
COVID-19 Lockdown forced our services to close and our volunteers were unable to support others. Our Co-Founder and Managing Director Charlotte Brazier decided to re-task our great team and put together a mutual aid group called "Hailsham Crisis Support" to support out communities elderly and most vulnerable at such a difficult and unprecedented time.
We offered support like shopping, prescription pickups, errands, dog-walking, well-being calls, doorstep checks. We took daily referrals from Wealden District Council, Social Services, GPs Practises and District Nurses, as well as other outside organisations.
We put together our own mental health team, spear-headed by Anne-marie Rickets who is also the Sunflowers mental health and safeguarding lead. She worked alongside many other services to support those struggling with their mental health and who were in crisis.
Our Counselling programme restarted and went to online appointments only, using ZOOM to allow clients and counsellors to connect and also started an online weekly support group twice a week.
Our well-being calls continued to get busier and busier after lockdown and we gained some amazing volunteers. They made such a difference to those elderly and vulnerable at home who were experiencing sever loneliness. This team was led by our well-being team lead "Jenna Fox".
We continued "Hailsham Crisis Support" until mid-September where we felt it was a good idea to bring it to a close, transferring our vulnerable residents over to our new project "Sunflowers Supporting Sussex". As COVID-19 was not going away any time soon, it allowed us to make the new project sustainable as people returned to work and could not volunteer their time as much as they were during lockdown and furlough.
During lockdown we supported over 400 elderly and vulnerable people. We were able to identify many who were in need of further support and carried out referrals to Adult Social Care. We worked closely with these services and other mental health services during lockdown and continue to do so.
We started the "Sunflowers Supporting Sussex" project to continue to support those vulnerable and elderly with our well-being calls, supporting those over 65 with a friendly phone call to prevent loneliness and depression. We currently only hold a Hailsham contingent of well-being callers, all working from home, but as referrals keep flooding in, we are looking to expand and create new teams covering other areas in East Sussex.