This week The ECHO Group which is part of Brighter Futures, celebrates a decade of supporting people in Stoke-on-Trent who have experience of self harm. ECHO was set up in 2000 in response to people telling us that because of the stigma attached to self harming they had nowhere to talk freely. They wanted somewhere where they could meet to support each other in a safe and non-judgemental environment.
In the beginning six people came together to support each other using Brunswick House, part of The Safe Spaces Network, as a base. In 2004 the
service moved to The American Clubhouse and Judith Shaw, who was one of the original six, became ECHO Co-ordinator. Earlier this year the group moved to a beautifully renovated new home, ECHO House, within The Dudson Centre. Various sessions are held in the calm, relaxed atmosphere at different times throughout the week, which includes an evening session on a Tuesday for people who find it difficult to attend during the day. ECHO also offers training to professionals to help them understand the complexities of self harm and how to respond to someone who has self harmed.
Judith Shaw, group co-ordinator says, ‘Most people think that self harm is about cutting, but it actually covers a much wider spectrum of self destructive behaviours including eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, smoking and even over-exercising. These are all ways in which people try to cope with painful emotions and low self esteem. At school young people are taught everything from French to physics but at no point do they receive lessons on dealing with life and all the problems that go with it. At ECHO we help people to recover their self-worth and offer coping strategies as alternatives to self harm.’
Anyone who lives in Stoke-on-Trent can refer themselves to ECHO if they feel they will benefit from the support. Please call 01782 683192 and we will arrange a time to meet you at ECHO House. Alternatively if you are feeling worried, low or concerned about self harm call the Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline on 0808 800 2234 for emotional support and information. This helpline is open evenings and weekends every day of the year.