Lincoln’s Night Light Cafés are located in churches and other venues all over the city. They are a lifeline for people who are suffering from mental health issues, as we emerge out of lockdown.
Ashlea Russell, a second-year psychology student at Bishop Grosseteste University, volunteers at the Bailgate Methodist Church on Wednesdays.
“I just wanted to do something more with my free time and get a sense of achievement from volunteering,” she explained.
Ms Russell added how important they are for visitors.
“It’s not necessarily dealing with people going through a crisis stage but it’s preventing that stage. We are face-to-face, which some people really benefit from, especially after a year of staying in the house.”
Lockdowns over the last year, which have included minimal social contact, has taken a toll on mental health in the UK. Loneliness, in particular, has been a great cause for concern.
The Night Light Cafés are therefore a crucial beacon for many people. Open seven days a week in various different places in Lincoln, it is run by trained volunteers. This includes students, who are there to chat to anyone, about anything.
Shaun Thomas is two years clean and sober, and a regular visitor of the Night Light Café at St Columba’s Church Centre on Tuesdays. He explained that it is only a five-minute walk from his house, having heard about the cafés through Facebook.
“It’s a very friendly place that you can go to and talk about absolutely anything and it’s confidential. They don’t necessarily have experience in everything but they’re just so kind,” he said.
Mr Thomas suffers from mental health issues that stem from his past, and before visiting the Night Light Café, he was only able to socialise on Saturdays at an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting.
“There’s me and an old chap that go and he’s quite chatty and too clever on the quizzes. I’d recommend it to anyone with mental health issues.”
Both Ms Russell and Mr Thomas expressed how mental health issues have risen during lockdowns, with Mr Thomas tragically losing a friend to suicide.
Mr Thomas mentioned the student volunteers, stating that despite the age difference, he feels comfortable talking to them.
“They don’t judge you or look at me like I’m weird, and I don’t mind talking to them about my problems.”
Ms Russell stated how it’s a great place for the volunteers as well as the visitors.
“It’s a sense of company for myself, talking to different people every week and knowing my presence is helping and benefitting somebody. It’s great to hear about each other,” she said.
Mr Thomas encourages more people to visit the Night Light Cafés.
“The one that I go to hasn’t taken off yet. There are only a few people that go and I think it’s really important that people know about it,” he said.
The Night Light Cafés are a safe place to visit, for anyone with mental health issues, feeling lonely or simply wanting to talk to someone.
Their Facebook page can be found through this link https://www.facebook.com/nightlightcafelincoln/?ref=page_internal.
Alternatively, their contact number is 0300 011 1200 and can be reached through email@example.com.