Brother and sister join forces to help people change their lives

A brother and sister from Kirkby are working together to help people suffering from stress, depression and grief.

Deborah Sykes, who hosts mental health workshops across the city, sometimes refers clients to The Rydal Gym, which is run by her brother Robbie Butler. Robbie, a former boxer, then encourages the client to start attending fitness classes at the Stanley Road club.

Deborah is creative director at 12 Millions Minds, a community interest company that runs workshops and one-to-one sessions to help support anyone dealing with loss, bereavement, loneliness, depression, and grief. Deborah worked for the North West Ambulance Service and later trained with mental health charity MIND.

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In some cases Deborah will refer a client from a workshop to Robbie. Robbie said: “I ask Debs for a little bit of background but nothing too personal. Just the basics on who they are and what the issue is.”

Robbie, 48, told the ECHO that many of the people who came to the Rydal for help had experienced relationship and financial problems. He said: “When we have a little chat with people we often tend to find that money and relationships are the root cause of the problem.

“When relationships end its often the bloke who has to move out into a little flat. He misses his kids, gets angry and then starts blaming the world for everything. When people come to us we always try and get them to start again . If the Rydal is about anything its about the truth, and so we move forward on that premise.

“Once we get to know someone we can start talking about what the problem is. We listen, but then we might start to challenge their version of events. Often people build up a story where they are the victim and everyone else is in the wrong.

He continued: “We encourage people to look at things from the other person’s perspective. Over time people might start to realise that they are a little bit to blame too. At first we just try and encourage people to change one day at a time. So they come and do a few classes a week here, and we recommend changes to their lifestyle.

“We promote healthy eating and the avoidance of drink and drugs. We tend to find that if people have a class here, they will not go out and get drunk the night before.

“People who are out of shape sometimes think they can just start eating lettuce and everything will be ok. But we promote a healthy and varied diet with a combination of protein and vegetables.”

Robbie said there were some very sad stories out there. He said: “Yes some people come through our doors who are broken. They have lost their self-esteem and seem drenched in shame.

“You can see it in there body language. So we say its time to admit you made a mistake and move forward.

“Sometimes everything is wrong so we say ‘lets just take it one day at a time.’ Physical exercise, drinking water and healthy eating are all part of the package we put in place to move forward.”

Robbie said lockdown had been hard on the city.

He continued: “Yes the pandemic just seemed to increase levels of grief and stress across the city. At one point we all seemed to know someone who had died from Covid and it was hard. Fortunately we now might be on the other side of that one. “

Deborah said: “There used to be so much negativity surrounding mental health issues but that has all changed now. But I think there is still work to do in the area of grief.

“Our workshops are there for the many people out there struggling with the stress and pain of losing someone. The classes we offer are about healing, and not about forcing people to talk about sensitive or traumatic experiences.”

Deborah said she was particularly keen to help children and families struggling with grief. This led to an illustrated book Azraelle Angel of Life and Death which deals with difficult subjects such as explaining grief to children.

For more information about 12 Millions Minds contact Deborah at [email protected]

For more information about the Rydal gym go here or call into the gym on Stanley Road, L20 2AG.

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