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New LGBT+ Networking group hosts first event to support mental health and wellbeing

A new Merseyside networking group for the LGBT+ community is hosting its first event next month, aimed at protecting people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The Collaborative Network is working with Blooming Mind to present LGBT+ Suicide Prevention in the City.

And it hopes it will start the conversation about mental health and suicide and offer help to anyone who might need it, along with establishing an ongoing quest to provide spaces for LGBT+ individuals to grow and find friendship, as well as practical and emotional support.

Mike Skeggs, managing director of Owen Drew England and co-founder of The Collaborative Network with radio presenter Josef Hollywood, says: “From talking to friends, there seems to be a stream of suicides happening.

“Although there is a lack of data, the numbers appear to be higher than they should be, and it’s definitely more prevalent within the LGBT+ community. Nobody seems to taking up the mantle and doing anything about it, but it’s something we couldn’t ignore.”

He goes on: “I would personally align it to the fact that there is a complex set of experiences that an LGBT+ person goes through. There’s a lot of untreated depression., and we were looking for a way to do something.

“A lot of us grew up under Section 28 which caused untold damage because we were never taught anything about people like us existing. I went to a Catholic school and it was never spoken about, and when you get to a point of accepting yourself, you have to spend the next goodness knows how many years unpicking what parts of you are actually you, and what parts you put on for other people.

“You come out to a community who is accepting but you don’t know who you are, and you try to find yourself within that. Trying to exist in the times that we do just heightens everything.”

The two-hour event will take place at Elysium in Eberle Street on Thursday, November 23, offering an insight into the specific mental health challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, as well signposting the community resources available and how to access them.

It also wants to help people recognise the signs of mental health crises and suggest and offer skills strategies to help deal with them.

“Moreover,” adds Mike. “It aims to build connections within the community for ongoing support and shared knowledge, not just in Liverpool but throughout the city region.”

The Collaborative Network CIC was setup up in September.

“Josef and I started conversations about it in July, and there will be different in-person networking events throughout the year (and, eventually, an online support site too).

“People will be able to turn up to an event, and they are welcome whether they might be going on a professional basis to network or just to make friends, maybe they’re new to the city and are looking for a support network,” adds Mike.

“I remember when my business partner Drew – entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den winner Drew Cockton was Mike’s Owen Drew co-founder who sadly died last year – was doing the LGBTQ Business Awards, and he threw a big networking event beforehand and I realised that, professionally, I had never before been in a room with as many LGBTQ+ people and businesses, who all have a similar lived experience. There are women in business groups and others, but nothing like this.

“This is what is missing in Liverpool, to bring LGBT+ people together, supporting one another.

“Running a business on your own is different from running a business with someone. I had Drew, I had a business partner, and we had each other, and I have had to reach out and build a new support network around me, realising it would be so much easier if there was somewhere to go; it’s the same for those working from home. That isolation and being left with your own thoughts, without that social interaction, is never good for anyone.

“We’re not saying we will be able to do everything, but with networking events, someone in the room will be able to help you.

“It’s a night, maybe once a month, where people can come together and chew the fat, and be there for each other.”

The Collaborative Network and Blooming Mind’s LGBT+ Suicide Prevention in the City event will be held at Elysium in Eberle Street on Thursday, November 23, between 5-7pm. Places can be booked free of charge – although a donation to The Collaborative Network CIC is welcome – via the website HERE.

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