A SOUTH Lakeland mental health charity has said it is determined to stay open during the second Covid lockdown after seeing first-hand the toll its temporary closure had on many of its beneficiaries earlier in the year.

Growing Well, which helps its volunteers recover from mental health problems through supported work and training on its six-acre fruit and veg farm at Low Sizergh, was forced to close its service from March to June.

More than 50 volunteers received remote one-to-one support through the lockdown while a skeleton staff kept the farming going to continue supplying its weekly veg box customers.

Now with new Covid measures firmly established and a long list of new referrals, chief executive Mary Smith has said closing down again was never an option this time round. She warned of the huge impact the pandemic was having on people’s mental health.

“We have had 30-40 referrals in the last couple of months and we expect that to grow quite a lot in the coming months and that’s why it’s so important that we are still here,” she said.

“The first lockdown took us all by surprise and we couldn’t know the scale of what was about to happen but over the past few months we’ve got a better understanding of what needs to happen in order to keep us open.

“We have fully risk assessed the site. It’s a very safe site to be on anyway but we have put into place a lot of physical adjustments, particularly to the covered areas so that people can continue to come here.”

Volunteer Ben, who has being going to Growing Well for a year, says he is relieved the charity is staying open this time.

“I come to Growing Well because I’ve been battling with my mental health for 10-20 years,” he said.

“Sometimes I don’t want to come but once you’re here it’s really great. It gives you a sense of purpose, it occupies your mind and I think that’s probably half the battle - you stop your mind overthinking things and all the other rubbish that comes with mental health.

“When I couldn’t do that I lost that foundation and anchor which my recovery is based around, you have to rethink what you are doing. When I’ve got Growing Well that’s one day in the week I don’t have to worry about. I’m glad that it’s open now.”

If you are experiencing mental health problems you can be referred to Growing Well by your GP, or to self-refer, email info@growingwell.co.uk.

To donate to Growing Well please go to growingwell.co.uk/donate.