Archway mental health charity Maya Centre says #MeToo has sparked huge rise in women seeking its help

Artwork created by clients at Maya for Mental Health Awareness Week.

Artwork created by clients at Maya for Mental Health Awareness Week. - Credit: Archant

The number of women contacting an Archway mental health charity to deal with the effects of abuse has almost doubled since the #MeToo movement began in October.

Tahera Aanchawan.

Tahera Aanchawan. - Credit: Archant

The Maya Centre offers free counselling to women who have experienced trauma stemming from domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, experiences of conflict, or FGM.

Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week next week director Tahera Aanchawan told the Gazette the number of clients who self-refer has risen dramatically since the start of the worldwide movement against sexual harassment and assault.

She said: “It triggered people to say: ‘You know what? These people are coming forward – so can I. If it can happen to somebody like that, I no longer need to be ashamed.’

“It’s been very supportive.”

In 2016, 260 women walked through the doors at Maya. In the last year, 460 have. But Tahera says the benefits of helping more clients also means the charity needs more funding.

“We are very underfunded,” she said, “and are trying to make sure we are still meeting the needs of the women and not turning people away.

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“A lot of other organisations have had to close their referrals so we have been very, very fortunate so far.”

The centre was formed in 1984 by a group of women with a feminist approach to therapy and counselling.

They felt traditional psychiatry wasn’t supporting them in addressing their mental health issues and wanted to have somewhere they could speak in comfort and not be judged, so they formed the Islington Women’s Counselling Centre (IWCC), as it was then known.

Initially a helpline was set up, and as the centre evolved the priority became helping the most disadvantaged women.

It now provides a space for women to come to terms with what has happened to them and learn healthier ways to relate to themselves and others through “psychodynamic counselling”, which focuses on the root of the trauma.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week from Monday to Friday, the centre is launching its own social media campaign, #HelloStress, to shed light on the need to acknowledge stress as a symptom of trauma.

Tahera said: “Adding to pre-existing family and financial problems, the trauma our clients experience often results in chronic stress, pulling them into a cycle they find hard to break.”

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