An evening in the life of a Crisis Café support worker

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Shining a spot light for mental health awareness week

Make a smile lottery work in partnership with Mid & North East Essex Mind. A local independent cause, affiliated to the national cause, Mind. They raise their own money to run their services, open to children, young people and adults living with a mild to moderate mental health problem.

For mental health awareness week that starts on Monday 9th May, we are focusing on how Mid & North East Essex Mind make a difference to people suffering with mental health issues. Below Olivia shares her story as a Crisis Café Support Worker.

Olivia’s story

The Crisis Café is divided into two teams, Colchester and Tendring, and I am based in the Tendring team. Although we are split over two locations, we do work alongside each other when necessary and are able to reach out for support from all team members, this can be so useful, especially during busy periods! Our service is open 7 days a week (excluding bank holidays) and operates in the hours of 5-10pm. There are two shift patterns available and I work the longer shift which means I start at 4pm. This first hour is reserved for professionals to refer individuals to us and there are three main ways we can receive them. The first way is through various avenues such as GPs, NHS 111 (option 2) or professionals who work within the community in the daytime. The second way is through our NHS inbox, which is checked throughout the entire shift and lastly through the system we use, Paris, which is usually where most referrals are allocated to us. When we receive a referral, we always ensure they are right for our service and if necessary we triage these over to more appropriate services. Alongside accepting referrals, we also complete some admin work such as checking and responding to emails or allocating referrals amongst the team.

During the hours of 5-10pm is where we provide support to our service users and we also take self-referrals during this time. The Crisis Café offers two modes of support, through telephone calls or face-to-face appointments, which provide a safe space for individuals to discuss how they are feeling. We encourage our service users to call us as and when they require support but for face-to-face appointments these are pre-booked. This enables us to work around any other commitments our service users may have but also prepare any resources if required. If it is a first face-to-face, we usually have a little chat, see how things have been going and find out if they would like any specific information regarding potential services or advice. After this, we book a follow-up appointment to allow us time to gather the resources and discuss this further. Our telephone calls offer the same level of support as we can email any resources over, this can be more convenient for some service users and some individuals find it easier. However, sometimes individuals don’t need signposting and would just like to talk things through. We also have a mental health nurse who works with us a couple of days a week who can provide us with advice and assistance, when they are not with us in-person we are able to access them when we require additional advice to support someone which is beneficial.

After each telephone call or face-to-face we write up our notes on Paris and add the appointment to the calendar to log the call. Sometimes upon further discussion we will send emails from our no-reply inbox, this can range from signposting to other services or groups in the community to providing some tips and useful websites for our service users, for example how to establish a relaxing evening routine to aid sleep. We take calls throughout the evening and our last hour starts after 10pm. This hour is where we finish our admin, write up any additional notes, or debrief with one another where necessary if we feel stressed or need a chat. We also update our shift log which allows our manager to see any technical issues or things that need addressing and acts as a handover for the other team to see how our shifts have gone. We also contact the other team if anything needs addressing for when they are on shift.

Once this is all complete, I travel home and often listen to music which helps me unwind. I also find watching a little bit of television or reading a book can help me relax before heading to bed. Whilst this role can be stressful at times, being able to help individuals and provide support is incredibly rewarding.

Olivia Hartigan

Crisis Café Support Worker


The work that Mid & North East Essex Mind undergoes in the Essex community is fantastic and an essential service for those who need it. For more information on the services Mid & North East Essex Mind Provide click here to head to their website.


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02 Days
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