“DON’T go through the storm alone.” 

That’s the message from Elliott Cousins, founder of The Speak In Club, a mental health service which is starting important conversations across Bradford. Elliott, 28, from Wibsey, founded the organisation after his own experience of a mental health crisis, which came to a head when his twin boys were born in 2018. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Elliott CousinsElliott Cousins

“It’s something I had clogged up for many years, I didn’t speak about it, and I bottled absolutely everything up. It just really came on top at a time when I should have been enjoying my life and being there for my family,” he said. 

Elliott, who turned to alcohol and drugs amid his struggles, said he’d “had enough” and explained that despite his efforts to put on a brave front, particularly in his sporting and rugby background, that “deep down I was really struggling, I just didn’t know what to do about it, or what avenues to go down or what services were out there”. 

After confiding in his dad and seeking help through therapy and counselling, he found that getting out and being active, was a huge help- but there was a gap in what was on offer.

He said: “I thought there was a real big gap, I’ve been to one-to-one therapy, counselling, and I’ve been to different organisations and waited on waiting lists for the NHS, I just found it really difficult.

“One-to-one therapy and counselling didn’t really work for me, I needed to be doing something active to get every emotion out there. That’s something that wouldn’t work for everyone but works for a lot of people.”

That’s where the idea for The Speak In Club came from. It began in January 2021 and now runs at three venues in the heart of Bradford communities – Baildon RUFC, Buttershaw St Paul’s Cricket Club and Dudley Hill RLFC. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Keeping activeKeeping active

At the heart of the club’s work is encouraging people to take that first step and open up, set against a backdrop of being active and exercising, but also finding practical solutions to the problems people may be facing. The groups are bolstered by a network of volunteers who share Elliott’s passion. 

Elliott, who has become a qualified mental health worker, said: “What I realised when I was struggling, I didn’t want to say anything to my family or my partner, or my friends, because I felt like I was a big burden on them, but I’m trying to implement sharing stuff with your family, bring your family down to this and get through stuff together.

“It’s a lot easier. I want to make people transparent, put your cards on the table, there’s a solution to every problem, regardless of what it is, we’ve got mental health professionals, personal trainers, nutritionists, banking professionals, behavioural specialists, we’ve got really qualified people involved.

“If this service didn’t suit anyone, we don’t just forget about them, we signpost them to different services and we have really good partnerships with different organisations across the district.” 

Trustee Richard Sears, 51, who has been part of the group since the beginning said: “I’ve seen people completely transformed.

“There’s no formality about it, at the moment, it will get to a size where we’ll need to introduce a bit of formality into it, but at the moment the great thing, we’re walking in, there’s no forms to fill in, you don’t have to declare who you are, you don’t have to declare you’ve got an illness, or what that illness is, you can just come and have a chat.

“People naturally open up to each other and share their experiences.”

Izzy Holmes, 21, who has both used the service and volunteers, said it was a “no brainer” for her to get involved.

She said: “When people struggle, it’s good to know my input and experiences can help someone else. A lot of the time when you are at your worst, you feel like you’re the only one that’s struggling and that’s not the case.”

She said the way the group is set up makes it a lot less daunting for people to take that first step.

“People feel comfortable and it’s such a friendly environment for everyone. It’s helped me so much.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The group's important messageThe group's important message

“Taking the first step, it’s the hardest part, but even if it’s a tiny step, it’s the most rewarding and it’s the biggest help. If you don’t, it’s just going to get worse and the more you put it off, the worse it’s going to get. Speaking to someone, that’s what we’re here for, is definitely so important because it can change someone’s life.”

While the club has made a huge difference for many, Elliott fears there are many people going under the radar and the funding for groups like the Speak In Club can be tight. 

He said: “People are getting the help, but there’s so many people out there struggling, and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet, which is very scary.”
He urged people to remember that if they are waiting for NHS treatment, the Speak In Club can be a ‘bridge’. 

Looking forward, Elliott would like to open a full-time hub,which people could use seven days a week.

“People might say that’s crazy,” he said. “But it's something that’s definitely needed.”

He added: “Our motto for the organisation is unlock your worries, something like this, walking through the door, is ultimately a hard thing to do, but once you’ve done that, you’ve got a key to unlocking that,” he said.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

“We’re normal people from normal parts of Bradford, and we’ve been in that situation or we’re going through that situation.

"Don’t go through the storm alone, there is always someone there to lend an ear, offer advice or just listen.

"It’s difficult making that first step and it’s something I had to do, but it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done. You can mask a lot of stuff, but deep down you know yourself what you’re going through and it does take courage, but once you’ve done that - it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”