Garry Wakeham is the founder of ‘Open Arms East Devon’, an organisation that works with people living with mental health illness in East Devon.

Location: Honiton, Devon

Garry has suffered from depression for most of his life. After his son passed away in July 2015, he struggled to cope alone and was admitted to a mental health hospital for treatment.  He ended up homeless as a result of a breakdown 2016.

When Garry found out that the mental health facility that he relied on for support was closing down he saw how distressed people who used the facility where and for some, the facility was the only contact and interaction that they had with the outside world. It was also the only respite some parents had from looking after their adult children.

Garry decided to take action and with help from workers from East Devon District Council, Honiton Town Council and Honiton United Charities he established ‘Open Arms East Devon’.

The group offers peer-to-peer support, with a focus on positive mental health well-being and socialisation, offering art and crafts, cooking, music, pool and darts. The space is a warm and friendly environment that is open to all adults from the East Devon area suffering with mental health difficulties. Garry carries out all of the duties required to run the group – from financial planning, to cleaning the toilets – with some limited help from volunteers. In 2018 he received the Tenant of the Year Award from East Devon District Council for his outstanding service to the community.

Garry said:

I’m so proud to be a Groundwork Community Award finalist. The help from Groundwork has enabled us to help many people develop new and existing skills, breaking down barriers and building people’s confidence and change many people’s lives.