BY TOBY PORTER
Mental health can sometimes feel like a game of snakes and ladders – no sooner are you riding high, then you slide back down again.
But Lambeth and Southwark MIND hopes to make a difference to the rollercoaster ride by running weekly paid board games evenings.
They have teamed up with South London Board Games (SLBG) to host them in a giant converted Victorian warehouse provided by Ugly Duck in Tanner Street – and it is raising money for charity.
This pioneering form of weekly charitable fundraising enables players to come and play – and donate to a good cause.
Board game cafes have sprung up across the capital, but people want to play and socialise in spaces which are not pubs.
SLBG already has more than 1,000 members, nine months after it was set up.
Gamers get to meet new people in a warm, inviting place – an important change for many, as many members have had depressive or anxiety-based problems. Now they want to expand further.
The other largest group, London on Board, has more than 13,000 members, but does not fundraise for charity – entry is free in pubs, so punters will buy food and drink.
But SLBG allows people to bring their own and donate to charity at the venue – so events work out cheaper for players. SLBG was set up by Kyle Balmer.
Kyle has previously suffered from depressive and even suicidal episodes.
She said: “I recognised the positive impact the act of playing games with people had on my mood and decided to make it a regular part of my life.
“The group was initially just a way for me to create a safe space for myself to play games. “But as the group grew I realised that there was a lot of demand and that a significant portion of the members had struggled or were still struggling with similar issues.
“Without prompting, issues of mental health and wellbeing pop up regularly in conversation. Always low-key and organically.
For a lot of people, it’s been the first time they’ve actually discussed having problems, and for these people in particular I’ve been told it’s been life-changing.”
Lambeth and Southwark Mind is a Brixton-based independent charity offering free services to those suffering from mental health disorders in the Lambeth and Southwark areas.
Residents of these two boroughs are twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues than the national average, and so Lambeth and Southwark Mind is continually thinking up innovative new ideas that can help the service users and local community, as well as raising enough capital that can be re-invest back in to services.
Lambeth and Southwark Mind chief executive Ajay Khandelwal said: “I am in awe of this amazing group of generous individuals who gather to play games, talk, and share their tables with complete strangers as well as friends.
“As well as inviting service users to join these social events, the monies raised also allow our team of dedicated volunteers and staff to provide absolutely free front-line psychotherapy, peer support groups and support for local people of who are experiencing profound psychological distress due to tough life circumstances.”