A COUNSELLING service in North Yorkshire has been described as 'inspirational' by the county's high sheriff.

The High Sheriff of North Yorkshire, Clare Granger, visited Wellspring’s headquarters at the former St Andrew’s Vicarage in Starbeck and revealed she was “incredibly impressed by the warmth, friendliness and inclusivity” of the charity, which, she added, “was providing a vitally important service in extremely challenging times for mental health.”

“It was a tremendous privilege to hear about the vital work Wellspring are doing. This is a charity that deserves our fullest support. It is no secret that the National Health Service is struggling to cope with the demand on its mental health services and Wellspring is helping, in a focused and pro-active way, in helping to ease this burden,” she said.

“It is no exaggeration to say that almost all of us, either directly or indirectly, have been affected by mental health challenges and it was humbling to witness such a dedicated group of counsellors and volunteers working so hard and with such commitment to ease such a pressing problem.”

The charity, which was founded in 2003, provides affordable short and long-term counselling, on a pay-as-you-can-basis, for the Harrogate and district community.

Emily Fullarton, the executive director of Wellspring, said: “We were absolutely delighted to welcome Clare Granger, the High Sheriff of North Yorkshire, to Wellspring. It was a great honour to show her around our premises and counselling rooms and to explain in detail what we do.

“Clare and her husband Mark had attended our 20th Anniversary Gala Dinner at the Crown Hotel in Harrogate in November and, as a result, she was keen to learn more about the charity. We are thrilled that she has taken such an interest in our work and we hope her visit will help to highlight what we do and what we are trying to achieve.

“This has been a very exciting 12 months for us, as we celebrated our 20th anniversary. Apart from the Gala Dinner, we held a special church service in Starbeck, led by our patron Rt Rev Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds.

“These two events illustrated how a small local charity has survived and thrived during the past 20 years and how we have tackled the problem of increasing poor mental health, anxiety and depression, which has threatened to overwhelm the NHS. We are proud of what we have achieved and look forward to building on this during the next 20 years.

The demand for Wellspring’s services from children and young people aged between four and 18 has never been higher, according to Emily Fullarton, Wellspring’s executive director.

“There are a number of reasons, some interlinked, for this increase in demand. The pandemic is one, of course, as is the relentless pressure of social media and exams. The cost-of-living crisis has meant that many families are struggling to make ends meet and this has a knock-on effect on family dynamics and the atmosphere at home,” said Emily.

“Through counselling, children and young people can re-gain trust in people, have a greater sense of themselves and their identity, develop and improve their confidence, self-esteem, resilience, emotional wellbeing and reduce feelings of anxiety, distress, isolation and loneliness.

“There are major challenges ahead. Unfortunately, we have been unable to grow the number of counselling sessions we offer due to a lack of suitably qualified people looking for placements and work. This, alongside the lack of funding available for these services, has led to a stagnation in the growth of our service.”