South Tyneside firms pledge support to mental health project

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A number of leading South Tyneside businesses have pledged to support a mental health project encouraging those struggling to open up and talk.

The South Tyneside Pledge initiative, which was created by South Tyneside Council and encourages organisations to commit to 'Spend', 'Recruit', and 'Support' South Tyneside, has thrown its weight behind The Red Bench Project.

Since being set up by social entrepreneur, Wayne Rambo Groves last year, the Red Bench Project has installed several benches across South Tyneside, where people can sit when they are feeling low, and even chat to others about their struggles.

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Wayne came up with the idea following his own mental health struggles. He and his friend, Mick Beatie, would often meet at South Shields seafront to talk through their problems. Unfortunately, Mick passed away in 2022, and Wayne decided to create the benches in his honour and to help others.

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Now, the initiative is set to continue building on its early success, after numerous signatories of the South Tyneside Pledge – of which it is also a member – agreed to participate in fundraising initiatives to help it support even more people across the borough.

Wayne said: “The Red Bench Project is all about helping each other, as well as helping those in need who may be going through the toughest time of their lives.

“To have extra help and support from the Pledge community can not only help us spread the word about the project and what we are trying to do, but we may also touch those that are already involved with the Pledge community who may be struggling themselves.

“Life is hard enough as it is, so if we can all help and support each other in different ways, then it can only help make life a little easier for all of us.”

One of the initiatives taking place to help pledge organisations raise funding for the project is a charity walk and litter pick along the foreshore at South Shields on 14th August, organised by the Advanced Manufacturing Forum (AMF).

Arthur Hodgson, Forum Manager at AMF, said: “AMF recognises the importance of mental health awareness, mental and physical wellbeing and need to highlight the support on offer to anyone needing it.

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“Unfortunately, suicide of men under the age of 50 is higher in the North East than anywhere else in the country and the vast majority of the workforce of our members fit into this category.

“The support behind the scenes at the Red Bench Project goes into so much more detail than just installing the benches too, which is why we are delighted to support the project by helping to organise this walk and litter pick and would like to invite anyone from the borough’s business community to come and join us.”

Another company which is supporting the project’s fundraising efforts is Manosun, a PPE provider headquartered in South Shields.

Steven Patterson, UK Director, said: “I'd not heard of the project until I was out for a walk with my wife at the beach and she took me to one of the benches. I decided there and then that I would like to get involved.

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“I spoke with The South Tyneside Pledge and AMF, who have both recently spoke about mental health issues within our meetings, and we arranged to meet Wayne.

“That was where we came up with the idea for the charity walk and litter pick and we’ve been blown away by the response.

“After meeting and discussing with Wayne, I genuinely feel whatever message we send out to the industry and our community is nothing in comparison to the support we can hopefully give to The Red Bench Project and support in our town, the reason why we joined the Pledge originally.”

As well as encouraging conversations, the red benches also possess QR codes providing direct access to life-saving support avenues, such as MIND and Samaritans.

Over the past 12 months, Wayne has received thanks from numerous people who have felt the benefit of the benches and is hoping that - following Red Bench’s expansion across South Tyneside - the concept could be rolled out even further afield.

He added: “My aim is to have benches in suicide hotspots all around the UK, maybe even further afield, as sadly depression doesn't discriminate. It affects everyone, all ages, all genders, all walks of life. So, if we can be a little help for anyone, then it is worth it. “

The South Tyneside Pledge is led by South Tyneside Council and aims to encourage South Tyneside organisations to focus on local activities and practical steps such as local procurement and recruitment.

Councillor Paul Dean, Lead Member for the Voluntary Sector, Partnerships, and Equalities, at South Tyneside Council, said: “The Pledge was set up to encourage local organisations to localise their supply chains and support one another, so it is absolutely fantastic to see our pledge signatories supporting the Red Bench Project.

“As a local organisation, the Red Bench Project is one of scores of social enterprises based in South Tyneside which go above and beyond to help others, so to see the borough really rallying around to support the project fills us with immense pride.

“It’s exactly what the Pledge is about. Working together to ensure South Tyneside thrives.”

To sign up for the Charity Walk and Litter Pick, visit: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/advanced-manufacturing-forum/t-zzqdnny

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