Betsy Jenny wellbeing cafe offers an invaluable service in the city by offering an informal pathway to mental health support for those in need.
It opened its doors earlier this year after completely transforming the former Elizabeth’s restaurant, in Bridge Street in the city centre.
As well as honouring the old female name of the much-loved site, Betsy Jenny has special meaning for owner Steve Lynn.
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In 2018 the Sunderland businessman suffered unimaginable grief when his son Steve Jnr died after contracting the flu, and it was counselling that helped him to live with the trauma.
Now, the memory of the popular 25-year-old, who was known affectionately as Betsy since his primary school days, lives on in Betsy Jenny’s, which is also named after an amalgamation of Steve’s parents’ names, Jean and Kenny, who died shortly before their grandson.
It’s been a real labour of love for Steve who is keen to break the stigma surrounding mental health, particularly for men who sometimes find it difficult to reach out for help.
As well as being a 60-seater cafe, the site offers counselling and meeting rooms and is open to everyone, for people who want a bite to eat to those looking for mental health support but not sure where to turn.
The latest phase of the transformation this week saw the opening of the multi-purpose meeting and wellbeing room, with Mayor of Sunderland Cllr Harry Trueman cutting the ribbon.
The room is available for all kinds of groups such as therapy groups, arts groups and yoga groups and the Betsy Jenny team is looking for any groups who’d like to use the space. It’s also fitted with laptops for people who want to use it for training purposes.
Steve, who owns SJL Brickwork Ltd, said it’s been a long road to open Betsy Jenny, but that it’s great to see it finally being used.
"This room completes the entire project and it was great to have the Mayor along, he’s a really down-to-earth man who supports the project, “said Steve.
"Opening the wellbeing cafe has been an eye-opener and there’s still a lot of people who don’t know we’re here, but we’d really encourage people to come in and check it out.
"Those who have visited and come in daily really like the space and the idea behind it, they say it’s something that’s much needed in Sunderland.”
Speaking about seeing his vision come to life after a long journey of renovation, Steve said: “I’m so proud, and the fact that my son’s and parents’ names are in the name of the cafe makes me proudest of all.
"Many people handle break downs and difficulties in different ways. For me, I’ve always been a positive person and I wanted to do something to give something back to Sunderland. The stigma around mental health is huge and I wanted to do my bit to break it down."
:: Betsy Jenny Wellbeing Cafe in Bridge Street is open from 9am to 4.30pm during the week and from 9am to 3.30pm on Saturdays. They will also be opening for Sunday lunches.
:: Any groups interested in using the room can email [email protected]