Life Changes offer vital support for women in Halifax

Life Changes Women's Support Group in Halifax.
Life Changes Women's Support Group in Halifax.

The volunteers hope to redefine the concept of a support group.

Based in Halifax's Basement Project, Life Changes Women's Support Group are a voluntary organisation that offer a range of free services and a confidential safe space for women.

Volunteers from a range of care and health backgrounds such as hypnotherapists, Reki masters, councillors, retired mental health nurses and trainee counsellors, offer their specialist support for service users.

In addition to the counselling sessions, the group run workshops to help women learn new techniques and coping strategies, varying from knitting to motivational speakers to mindfulness.

Founder Sharon Kilroy, started the group as she wanted to provide women with a support network.

“My son took his own life when he was eighteen and after hearing about the lady who committed suicide on North Bridge last year I decided that women needed somewhere to offload. Men have Andy’s Mans Club but there wasn’t anything like that for women.

"I wanted to create a space where women could talk, so that they don’t get to a point where they feel as though they have to do something drastic."

Life Changes has redefined the concept of a support group and focuses on women supporting women, in a relaxed atmosphere.

"When you walk through those doors, expect to hear lots of laughter.

"I think that the words therapy and support group can be quite intimidating and can sometimes put people off. The environment we’ve created here isn’t scary, we’re all really friendly and just want to be able to support women in our community.

"If you don’t want to talk or have a session, there’s always a cup of tea and a nice piece of cake going. You can make friends, do some colouring, learn a new skill, whatever you need to have a bit of a recharge," said Sharon.

Tracy Whitbread is one of the women that attends the group, and believes that it has significantly improved her mental health. She was persuaded to come to the meetings by her sister, after work pressures took their toll on her well being.

"I’ve suffered with mental health issues for nearly forty years and I was so bad that it affected every aspect of my life. I walked through that door on my own and I’ve not looked back since.

"Anyone that is on their own with nobody to talk to should definitely come along, everyone is so friendly and kind it has made the world of difference," said Tracy.

Caroline Waterhouse, is a 'befriender' for the group. When new people come along she has a chat with them and helps signpost them to whatever support they want or need.

Caroline was suffering with pain in her shoulder after a car crash. After trying multiple doctors, acupuncture and reflexology, she went to Sharon for hypnotherapy. Sharon was able to teach her coping mechanisms for the pain and when cured, revealed that it was actually a psychosomatic pain

After receiving treatment from Sharon she decided that she wanted to be a part of Life Changes and help other women open up and talk about their struggles.

"My family kept asking what was different about me. A lot of people thought I’d lost weight - I hadn’t. I was just walking taller and happier. Sharon has helped me become a much happier person" she said.

Chloe Williams, is one of the volunteers for the group and is currently studying mental health and counselling at Leeds Beckett University, in order to provide better help for the service users.

“It’s a safe, confidential support network. The door is open every Wednesday. That door can seem scary to walk through, but we’re here," said Chloe.

The group is attended by women as young as eighteen, right up to retired older women from all backgrounds and walks of life. By encouraging discussion amongst the generations, the sessions have transformed the way some of the women view young people.

“The young women have completely changed the dynamic of the group, they bring so much joy.

"In my social circle I don't really come across many 18 to 20 year-olds. The younger generation have a reputation as being a bit lost and there's a lot of negative stories about them in the media. But after meeting the young girls here, I know the future is in safe hands.

"When the younger women are here, you can look around the room and see the biggest smiles on everyone’s faces - they’ve completely changed my perception of young people.

"The older women teach us skills like sewing and crochet, skills that are dying out. It's so wonderful seeing all the different generation mixing with each other," said Caroline.

The group meet every Wednesday at 7pm at the Basement Project in Halifax. For more information on the group ring 07900 591028 or email sharon@changeshypnotherapy.co.uk.