Counselling in the Community
Counselling in the Community
Interview with Batendi Mkweli from Millo Services CIC
Batendi Mkweli is a professional counsellor and a registered nurse with 14 years of practice in various settings. She set up Millo Counselling Services in January 2007 as a sole trader. Having migrated from Zimbabwe to the UK in 1991, Batendi understands the difficulties faced by migrants arriving in a foreign country and is committed to using her skills and talents to help the African community in Nottingham. In March 2009, with the help of her team, she established a social enterprise in the form of a Community Interest Company, Millo Services CIC.
Batendi kindly agreed to meet with us met up with us for an interview about the work of Millo.
What services does your organisation provide?
At Millo we offer two closely related talking therapies namely counseling and psychotherapy to help people to talk in confidence about issues that concern them. We want to help people to explore and understand current difficulties, and make choices in their lives to regain the initiative in their lives. In addition we offer a self-directed tool called WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) used to improve one's wellbeing and support their journey of recovering their wellness.
We also offer services such as retreats for those who want to take some time out from their busy lifestyles. We’ve been offering retreats for over 2 years now and have also started wellness workshops through local churches. We also offer training workshops on mental/emotional wellbeing, stress management and dealing with domestic violence, all of which are underpinned by counselling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and WRAP.
What made you decide to set up a social enterprise?
We were finding that many people who were interested in our services couldn’t afford the full rates. These were often the people who needed them most. We want to make sure our services are accessible to all those who need them, including people on low incomes. The social enterprise business model allows us to use the full price work we do to subsidise the services we offer to people on low incomes.
As an organisation, we’re really interested in the importance of community in addressing mental health issues. We believe that if the community is well, it can help the individual to develop and be strong as well. We put a lot of emphasis on improving community networks. For people’s well being to change it needs to be from the grass roots.
The group work we’ve been doing in churches is a new idea which has been working very well. BME groups tend to value community a great deal, so we feel that this group work approach is very appropriate. It allows people to find their own ways of approaching treatment and doesn’t just take into account people’s symptoms in an individualistic way.
What is your client group?
Having worked in the NHS primary and secondary services, university student support services and in prisons, I have always worked with diverse client groups. And being of African origin myself, I have a particular sensitivity to the cultural needs of Africans. But we work with anyone who needs our support.
We believe that our strength is the relationship we have with and understanding we have of our community. Many Africans have been marginalised here and are not engaging effectively with mainstream services. Some feel resentful that the services they have received in the past have not met their needs or been inaccessible. There is a certain amount of suspicion on the part of some of our community members; trust is a really big issue.
There is also the problem that depression is still not properly recognised as a condition among African communities. There is a lot of stigma; people are reluctant to accept that they may have a mental illness, so we need to encourage them to address these problems rather than stigmatising them.
What do you see as being the main problems with existing mental health provision?
My big concern is that often people end up being admitted to psychiatric wards when they don’t need to be. One of the main aims of this social enterprise is to prevent people from reaching the stage where they need to be hospitalised, by using early intervention and a holistic approach.
Some people are reluctant to go to their GP with mental problems as they believe the GP will send them straight to hospital. Our role is to build up relationships of trust with people and engage with them at an early stage so they will be more willing to seek help. Sometimes all people need is a little bit of help when it matters.
Further information about Millo Services can be found at www.milloservices.co.uk