Tell us a bit about yourself and/or your organisation.
The Zachary Geddis Break the Silence Trust (ZGBTST) was founded in 2017 after the suicide of my younger brother and only sibling Zachary. He struggled since he was 16 with his mental health and we, as a family did everything we were told to do. He was attending counselling, a client of CAMHS and participated in weekly art therapy. All which came to a dramatic halt when he turned 18. After he passed I spoke at his funeral and through being open and honest of his struggles, many people started to contact our family and share their own personal stories of heartache, failure and suffering.
Even after Zachary’s passing I felt my family and I were still victims of the services so we sat down and developed a plan to set up a non profit organisation dedicated to raising more mental health awareness and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide.
We have a passion for bridging the gaps in society that is led by red tape and tick boxes, we develop our own ideas which are driven by the opinion of the community and we act quickly to help and support everyone who needs it.
Our main goal is to achieve a level of understanding that we treat each client using our services as an individual, with no stigma or no pre conceived opinions so everyone feels accepted and not alone.
How well have you/your organisation adapted to the pandemic?
We had only opened our first location in Coleraine when the pandemic first hit and both our head office and Maghera location where under construction so on that side it was difficult to meet deadlines and open in time. However on a day to day basis we implemented a daily 24 hour helpline almost immediately.
This was then followed closely by daily online ‘Coffee, Chats and Company’, webinars, children’s mental health corners and YouTube uploads.
One positive is that ZGBTST went into lockdown in March 2020 with just myself and our counsellors providing support services but when we were able to reopen in July 2020 we did so with 2 charity co-ordinators which we hired during lockdown.
We had also never applied for funding before and worked 100% voluntary, but as so many opportunities were becoming available the Trust was offered financial support by many different funding groups.
Although we are an essential service and able to continue all of our services face to face ZGBTST has now added all of those previously implemented initiatives into our daily running of services as I think it will be a while before we leave the virtual world to be able to run fully face to face again with everyone feeling safe enough to leave their homes.
How well have people/organisations in your area collaborated throughout the pandemic?
One of my friends set up (the first I had seen) community support groups, she actually won the Spirit of Northern Ireland as it was very successful. ZGBTST was their mental health support connection so we worked closely with her community support group in providing them with our befriending service and mentoring online.
I think many groups focused on their areas and do not venture out of them and/or are not keen of outsourcing support which I think it is a problem area.
ZGBTST wished to alleviate pressure from groups whom had waiting lists for services etc as well as juggling our own clients however many were unwilling to let go of clients who could be waiting upwards of 8 months to be seen, just so they do not loose the head count, but at the same time they are putting their clients mental health and wellbeing at risk.
At ZGBTST we believe fully in an integrated society, where as there is so many services – why do waiting lists exist? I find this commonly more of an issue with NHS and Governmental services than other community groups as I believe we share the same vision.
What key needs are becoming apparent and/or are likely to arise this year?
Mental health and wellbeing has always been a top topic of need, its increasing as the pandemic continues, however what is not supported is the need for collaborative information and advice which needs to reach the user in a non virtual way to discourage the ignore and scroll mentality.
Services need to be explained in order to decrease the common “there are not enough mental health services” statement that many people state without knowing how services work, where they are and what they do.
Do I need to mention the complete decrease in fund-raising activities which I am sure that everyone in the charity sector can relate to right now?
ASK: What do you need, right now, that the members of Community Network NI and/or the wider community may be able to help you with?
I am, honestly, looking for more organisations who think they could link up with the services that ZGBTST provide the community and wish to use them.
We operate at a community level, with immediate availability and all we need to fulfil our passion is support from other organisations in what we do and an open wave of communication that if you know someone who wishes to benefit from any of the services we offer send them our way. With working together, we can make a difference.