Improving mental health, a cup of tea at a time

7th July 2022

They say a cup of tea and a chat solves everything – and the regulars at the Steam House Café would certainly agree.

The Gorleston-on-Sea café plays host to anyone who wants a cuppa and a natter. But it is also a service in the heart of the community for anyone who has an issue with their mental health.

It open in July 2021 and for Lynn White, it has been a life-saver.

She says: “I have a mental health problem and the staff here are absolutely brilliant. I come every day and they listen and they are so kind and helpful. If you come in and just want to chat, you can.

“If it wasn’t for this place I’m not sure I would have coped with my health. I have dissociative disorder and I do have bad attacks and they know what to do if I have one. It’s so relaxed and a perfect place to come.”

The Steam Café is run by the Access Community Trust charity as part of the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care System. It is a vibrant community hub on the high street.

Tracey Mcfee is the Health and Wellbeing Service Manager at the café and is one of the people that makes it such a warm and welcoming place.

She says: “The café is breaking down the barriers to allow people to pop in and talk about things.

“For a lot of people, going to the doctors isn’t always the right thing and it implies that something is wrong. Sometimes it is about talking to someone and deciphering it all and working out how to cope with how you are feeling.

“You don’t always need to go down the clinical route. As we all know, life is tough sometimes, and you might need someone who isn’t emotionally involved to say, that’s fine, let’s talk about it. That stops the person from getting to that point when they are completely overwhelmed.”

Tracey has seen first-hand the difference that the café has made.

“We have had some amazing outcomes,” she says. “We have people whose lives are completely turned around without them having to go to A&E.

“They can recognise through the support they have built up that the time when they need to speak to someone is not when they are in crisis, it is when they are on the way.

“The main crux of our service is to give members of the public the tools to manage their lives and make more positive choices. I’m proud to say it works amazingly.”

The idea of having a friendly place to drop in and talk about your mental health is becoming more widespread across the Norfolk and Waveney area. The REST Hub in Norwich, run by Norfolk and Waveney Mind, does a similar job, with other cafés opening soon.

Lynn couldn’t be more supportive of the approach and what it has done for her and the fellow café-goers. She is an active participant in the arts and crafts workshops and the board game sessions. She has even had support with housing issues.

Lynn says: “More people who have a health problem need to come to the café because there are the people here who can help. The people who work here are first class and they have helped me a lot.”