Participants of VODA’s NT LIFE Recovery College in North Tyneside received a special surprise at their door recently with the delivery of a Little Box of Hope to help support them through this challenging time.
NT LIFE – which is funded by the North Tyneside CCG – created 200 Little Boxes of Hope, each containing a series of exercises, contacts, poems and motivational quotes and a number of small gifts, each with an explanation of why they have been included have been collated and distributed with help from a number of volunteers, support from the team at One Below at the Silverlink and funding from the North East Suicide Prevention Network.
Over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, NT LIFE Recovery College worker Ali Donkin has had to completely rethink the support offered to participants. Part of the ethos of NT LIFE is the ability to come together to share experiences and learn how to manage our own wellbeing and mental health. However, the coronavirus has (temporarily) put a stop to these face to face activities.
Ali quickly adapted NT LIFE to ensure that she is still able to support those who need it via online resources, with the NT LIFE Facebook page becoming a central point of contact for daily support and resources. The Facebook page and website feature a range of online resources including the 11:11 Mindfulness 5 Minute mindfulness journal, downloadable activities and free courses, alongside home delivered activity packs from the team at VODA. The NT LIFE course facilitators have also created a range of online sessions accessible via video conferencing platform Zoom.
It became clear that some of the people involved in NT LIFE were finding the lockdown particularly difficult and so Ali decided to create a Little Box of Hope to help them through. Ali commented: “I created the Little Box of Hope firstly to reach out and let people know they are not alone and to help them through these challenging times. There is always someone on the outside thinking of them and willing to help. They have worth and value even if they don’t feel that way right now. If at the very least it makes someone smile for a moment, in spite of their anxieties and fears, then we really have achieved something important.”
Some of the items in the box are to give the person a moment to STOP and take time to adjust their thinking, to recognise these feelings are not permanent. There are also items that are metaphors, for example the yoyo – a distraction – the soothing motion of the yoyo on the string, but also a reminder of simpler times playing with childhood toys. The box also includes practical things such as the list of crisis contacts and helplines. There are tools and techniques for dealing with feelings and also some things that are simply humorous.
“I recall many a time when I have witnessed in myself and others how humour can bring us back from the brink,” says Ali.
What do we hope this box will achieve? Ali comments: “My deepest hope is that for anyone who really is at their lowest, is thinking seriously about ending their life, it stops them in the moment and offers an alternative choice. If it prevents even one suicide then this little box of hope will be priceless.”
Feedback so far has shown that the boxes have been well received:
“I was having a really bad day today in fact I was close to ending everything. I can’t describe how much it means to me. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. To know someone thinks enough to put something like that together and deliver it is the most amazing thing I have ever had.”
“Paddy and Linda Rogan are both in their seventies. I’ve been shopping for them for the last couple of months. Paddy has dementia so Linda can’t leave him and he doesn’t understand the social distancing policies everywhere.”
“My sister has been living with mental ill health for 30 years and doesn’t get out much, lockdown or not. She really appreciated her box.”
“Thank you so much for my lovely gift and thoughts. It was so lovely of you. it moved me tears. You are a diamond. Is there any other stone more precious because if there is I’ll have to start calling you that one?”
“Just wanted to say a huge thank you for my box today. The box made me cry and made me feel so special. It’s absolutely beautiful and I will treasure it, thank you so much.”
“Thank you so much for the comfort packs for me and my mam, I don’t know if you know this but our cat was knocked over and killed early yesterday morning. We are going to use the box as a memory box for her.”
The boxes were collated and delivered by a team of volunteers, who also found that they benefited from the activity. With volunteers commenting:
“On Friday for the first time in a long while I felt excited and involved.”
“Thank you so much for your help, support and the laughter we had on Friday packing the Little Boxes of Hope. It was an amazing day from my perspective and having delivered some of these over the weekend they are getting a great response.”