The Pottle Centre in downtown St. John’s serves as a rich resource and safe-haven for those struggling with mental illness to branch out and feel accepted
Doug Coady of St. John’s sums up well why he likes spending time at a drop-in centre that supports people living with mental illness.
“It occupies my mind and helps with my nerves,” Coady said during an interview at the Pottle Centre on Water Street in St. John’s.
Variety of services
Open Monday-Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, the drop-in centre is a safe and healthy place where consumers of mental health services can hone their social skills, take part in organized activities and feel part of their community.
From board games to card games, bingo to bowling, movies to arts and crafts, there are plenty of activities to keep members busy.
In addition to the regular planned activities and special events, there are also computers at the ready. As well, guest speakers are often invited to come in and talk to members about topics of interest to them.
Coady has been a member of the Pottle Centre for over a decade.
“I play bingo and Scat and Trouble. I love arts and crafts and I love bowling. I love watching a movie. Whatever is on the go, I love it,” he said.
Coady said he’s made many friends over the years at the centre.
“One of my best friends’ name is Gus. And Leanne is my friend,” he said of the centre’s executive director, Leanne Lewis. Lewis said the centre has over 200 members. Attendance is taken daily, she said. “If we haven’t seen people in awhile, we will reach out to them to see how they are doing,” she said.
‘I’m not the only one…’
Elaine Lethbridge of St. John’s has been a member of the Pottle Centre for about 13 years. A single mother, she was recently laid off from her job. With more time on her hands now, she continues to find solace at the centre.
“I suffer from depression and it helps to know I’m not the only one who faces mental health issues. Just hanging out with my friends here, having a laugh and enjoying the games is good for us all … over the last two weeks we made Christmas coffee mugs and candles. I really enjoyed that,” she said.
Lethbridge has been focusing on her health. She’s lost over 80 lbs. and her weight loss journey continues.
Don Wadden is also a long-time member of the Pottle Centre. He has a great rapport with the other members who have dropped by Tuesday afternoon for bingo.
“I like the people here. I like socializing and I like meeting new people who come here. I’m looking forward to the two upcoming Christmas occasions that we have,” Wadden said.
“Coming here is very therapeutic in my life. It’s part of the motivation in my life. We are like family here,” Wadden added.
While waiting for others to come for the bingo game, the men and woman chat casually among themselves. The atmosphere is as comfortable as it is respectful. It is indeed a gathering of friends.
The Pottle Centre is a contracted service of Eastern Health. While the health authority contributes the largest portion of the centre’s funding, it still relies on private donations, the generosity of community partners and grants made available to non-profit organizations.
The centre is about to kick off its 40th Anniversary fundraising campaign.
Lewis is delighted and grateful that the Our Divas do Christmas show, which runs from Dec. 5-8 at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s, is supporting the Pottle Centre this year.
“The money will be used to further the centre’s program and services,” she said.
“We are so glad the Divas chose us. We are so excited about the exposure this is giving us,” Lewis said.
Lethbridge’s message to others is one of strength and resilience. It’s not about how often we fall, she said. It’s about getting back up again.
“Life is too short to be anything but happy. You need to take care of your physical health but you also need to take care of your mental health. That’s just as important,” she said.
Thanks to the Pottle Centre, many vulnerable people in the St. John’s area continue to do just that.
For more information on the Pottle Centre visit pottlecentre.org. For “Our Divas Do Christmas” tickets visit artsandculturecentre.com/stjohns.