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'I felt completely cut off' - community group fighting loneliness inspired man to help others

PUBLISHED: 14:45 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:20 19 September 2019

Hilton James (left), a peer support worker who helps to run the Meet up Monday group in Thetford to tackle loneliness in the community. Photo: Emily Thomson

Hilton James (left), a peer support worker who helps to run the Meet up Monday group in Thetford to tackle loneliness in the community. Photo: Emily Thomson

Emily Thomson

A town's community group has vowed to combat loneliness, saying too many people are suffering in silence.

Meet up Mondays at The Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford, a community group to help tackle loneliness. The group takes place in The Engine Room Cafe from 12pm to 2pm every week. Photo: Emily ThomsonMeet up Mondays at The Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford, a community group to help tackle loneliness. The group takes place in The Engine Room Cafe from 12pm to 2pm every week. Photo: Emily Thomson

And for Hilton James this was his reality, when he had to live with severe mental health issues, which he says cut him off from the world.

The 54-year-old, who is now a peer support worker for the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), and is helping to run a 'Meet up Mondays' group in Thetford, says it was a community group that helped to change his life.

Mr James said: "I had psychosis and I still have, because it never goes away but in 2009 I was very ill. I wouldn't go out at all and when you're isolated, lonely and surrounded by four walls, it heightens how you feel.

"It was frightening and terrifying, I felt completely cut off from the word. My anxiety meant that I couldn't leave my home."

Chris Speed (left), community care support worker, and Hilton James (right), peer support worker, who help to run the 'Meet up Monday' group in Thetford, at The Charles Burrell Centre. Photo: Emily ThomsonChris Speed (left), community care support worker, and Hilton James (right), peer support worker, who help to run the 'Meet up Monday' group in Thetford, at The Charles Burrell Centre. Photo: Emily Thomson

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After experiencing his worst ever breakdown, Mr James was placed on a recovery course and was taken to a community group, where he was able to share his story with others.

"My care co-ordinator brought me out of my home and took me to a community group and it helped me massively. It made me feel like I wasn't alone," said Mr James.

"It was easy, friendly and no pressure, just coffee, tea and biscuits. You can sit and say nothing and just listen or you can join in. But the more you get out the more you realise you're okay and it just gets easier."

Now Mr James has committed his life to helping others overcome loneliness and helps with the running of 'Meet up Mondays' in Thetford, at The Charles Burrell Centre, in the Engine Room café, midday to 2pm every week.

The group offers free tea, coffee and biscuits and a safe place to meet new people and get out into the community.

Mr James added: "It is open to everyone in the general public who may be feeling lonely, because it affects everybody.

"It builds confidence and gets them out of their four walls, have a laugh, share stories, and feel safe. We hope more people will realise that we are here if you need us and come along to the meetings, because I know first-hand just how much they can help."

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