‘Life-saving’ service for women in funding crisis

Carrickfergus Women's Forum on Rhanbuoy Park.  INCT 21-720-CON
Carrickfergus Women's Forum on Rhanbuoy Park. INCT 21-720-CON

A Carrick-based community service is urgently seeking funding to continue its ‘life-saving’ work with women in the borough.

Carrickfergus Women’s Forum, based at Rhanbuoy Park in the town, provides a community-based model of mental health care for those referred to the service.

The centre’s chief project, Reconnect, begins with a 12-week personal development course designed to boost self-esteem.

Complementary classes are also offered, from cooking to card-making, along with therapies and counselling.

However, the forum has reached a crisis point with its current funding stream about to end.

Project coordinator Anne Magill said: “We’re currently funded by the Big Lottery, but that’s going to run out in June. After that we’ll be able to use our reserves but that will only last for a limited time.”

Speaking to the Times last week, women at the centre shared the positive impact the forum had had on their lives.

Carrick woman Sandra has been suffering from agoraphobia for the past 10 years. She revealed: “This was the only place I could come to on my own and feel safe.”

The service also represents a lifeline for many experiencing mental ill health. Linda, who has been suffering from depression for 10 years, said: “One of the most important things I have found about here is that you don’t have to pretend to be well; chronic depression is still viewed by our society as a weakness but the fact is depression kills.

“Having been here twice has made more of a difference for me than 10 years in the system.”

Deborah, who is now a volunteer, first came to the forum six years ago following a suicide attempt. “I had been in a bad relationship and believed I was a horrible person,” she said.

“Coming to the women’s forum really changed my thinking. I don’t think I’d be here today without it; it honestly does save lives.”

The forum also carries out valuable work in building self esteem, according to Deborah’s daughter Sarah-Louise. “When I was in primary school I was bullied and I hated myself, but here they give you the strength to be you and not to care what other people say, think or do,” she added.

Vicki suffers from OCD and Tourette’s syndrome. She said: “My family are really supportive but it’s hard for them to be out with me in public and they get embarrassed; when I come here I’m completely comfortable and they accept me for how I am.”

The forum is currently planning a number of fundraising events, including a Girl’s Night Out at the end of June. “It costs about £110,000 a year a run the service, which sounds like a lot,” said Anne. “But it could be done if we were able to get 10 or 20 businesses in the local area to donate a certain amount each.”

To get in touch with Carrickfergus Women’s Forum, contact 028 9336 9933.