A former Metropolitan Police detective who suffered "manic depressive episodes" has spent the past 10 years helping others who suffer from mental health problems. Mark Kilbey is the director of Take Off, a support charity which recently opened up a new base in Dover. He invited me to come along and meet the team at Unit 1a in Granville Street last month.
Like Mark, who is bipolar, everyone in the team has experienced mental health problems. Mark says this makes the 37 "peer workers" across East Kent uniquely placed to help others. Indeed, mental health experience is "an essential qualification". Take Off, which was set up in Canterbury 20 years ago, held 840 group meetings last year.
Mark told me that he suffered a "psychotic episode" in 2005 while working for Kent County Council. He says his treatment "probably cost the NHS £100,000". He has dedicated the past decade of his life to working with Take Off to try to help others and promote awareness of mental health issues. I also met assistant director Ellie Williams, Dover co-ordinator Wayne Smith and Folkestone co-ordinator Madlin Brinton at their new Dover base.
Mark and his team are an inspiration to everyone who has suffered from mental health problems. They have battled through really difficult times and are now using their experience to help others. I would encourage anyone who feels like they need help to contact the Take Off team. I am determined to do all I can to support people in Dover and Deal struggling with mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health – and it must be treated that way.
All the peer workers at Take Off are paid. The charity receives funding from Kent County Council, Canterbury City Council, the local clinical commissioning group and a number of local businesses. Take Off offers group therapy sessions and much more. Anyone wanting to contact the team should call 01227 788211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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