Wigan mental health group's online services helping people across the country
Its work on social media has made such an impact that ambitious expansion plans to help those in need are now being drawn up.
Bridging The Gap was set up by Bamfurlong resident Kieran Jones and has been offering virtual support as well as mental health first aid and building a presence on TikTok
Kieran’s use of the social networking device to speak about mental illness and the help available to those struggling has been picked up by people experiencing crisis the length and breadth of Britain.
Kieran is also looking at expanding Bridging The Gap’s presence in the borough with regular events people who need help with their mental health and wellbeing can attend.
One person who has benefitted from the grassroots group’s use of TikTok, who lives in Scotland, has spoken of how Kieran managed to help him overcome suicidal thoughts and how he is now volunteering with an organisation to help others.
Kieran said: “We’ve been doing Lives on TikTok and we’ve been getting a lot of crisis calls.
“We’ve been supporting a lot of people in Scotland and I’d like to set a branch of Bridging The Gap up there.
“I also want to get set up in Wigan with a proper base and regular support groups. We’ve got high suicide rates in the borough and I want to get that down within a year.
“With the way things are going this is needed all over the country.
“When I’ve been on TikTok I’ve had people coming in walking the streets with suicidal thoughts and I’ve had to place emergency calls with the police and paramedics to start searches to find them.
“I’m taking small steps but I have a big goal and that is to go nationwide with this.
“Now restrictions are lifting I want to get groups which meet every week set up in Wigan and Leigh.”
As well as Bridging The Gap Kieran is working to support the NHS with the Wigan and Leigh Mental Health Forum, a partnership with the Independent Mental Health Network.
That is bringing together people with experiences of going through the health system and feeding back to the authorities on what works and what doesn’t, and Kieran says he is delighted by how the first virtual sessions have gone.
He said: “We’ve had about 15 people coming in and the feedback is unreal. It’s just normal people who have mental health problems and giving their opinions on what can be done in their area to change things.
“The atmosphere in the sessions is bouncing and it has gone better than I thought it would.”
One person who has been keen to speak of the impact of Bridging The Gap’s work is 28-year-old Lee Smith from Greenock in Scotland.
He connected with Kieran through TikTok at a very low point in his life when he was embroiled in court proceedings over custody of his children.
His outlook has now completely turned around and he supports people in the Inverclyde area while keeping in touch with Kieran about the possibility of Bridging The Gap beginning work in Scotland.
Lee said: “I was going through a really bad break-up, fighting to see my kids through the courts, and I got to the point where it was bringing me so low I was contemplating suicide.
“I was on TikTok to cheer myself up and stumbled across Bridging The Gap. I decided to ask for a bit of help.
“Kieran built the bridge by asking me how my day was going and stuff like that and made me feel so at ease.
“He talked me out of my suicidal thoughts and gave me breathing techniques. He treated me so differently to how it would have been going to see a doctor.
“He made me feel so much better in myself. After talking to him I reached out to a group in Scotland called Men On Inverclyde and I’m now a volunteer for them.
“Kieran’s just got that persona. He’s a great guy and the work he is doing with Bridging The Gap online is unbelievable.”
To find out more visit www.facebook.com/bridginggapmentalhealth
The Samaritans are also available at any time of the day and night on 116 123 if you need support.
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