Northampton

Well-being cafe inspired by Kettering man who took his own life

Denise Mackay Image copyright Johnnys Happy Place
Image caption Denise Mackay set up Johnny's Happy Place in Kettering following the death of her son Johnny

A mother whose son took his own life five years ago said a mental health cafe named after him aims to fulfil his ambition "to make his name".

Johnny's Happy Place on Rockingham Road, Kettering, was founded after the death of Johnny Mackay in October 2014.

Johnny's mother Denise Mackay said: "He used to say to me 'Mummy one day I'm going to rock the world, I'm going to make my name'.

"He didn't, but we are trying to do that."

Denise, 71, said her son had "talent, charm, intelligence and charisma".

She said: "He would talk for hours to complete strangers or one of his classmates if they were in some kind of crisis."

Johnny struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and undiagnosed mental health problems for a number of years before he took his own life, aged 29.

Image copyright Johnnys Happy Place
Image caption Denise Mackay (left) said that her son Johnny (right) struggled with addiction and mental health problems before his death

Denise said Johnny felt he could not put his family "through the hell we had lived through for a long time".

"He felt this was the only way out," she said.

'We had to do this'

His family and friends felt they should do something in his memory and two months later they were offered an unused cafe area.

"The floor was appalling and everything was ripped out," Denise said.

Image copyright Johnnys Happy Place
Image caption Denise Mackay (right) and her daughter Charlotte (left), along with family and friends run Johnny's Happy Place

Following appearances on BBC Radio Northampton they received help from a builder to turn the cafe around.

"I thought 'How can you be doing this?'," said Mrs Mackay.

"But because Johnny helped people and listened we knew we had to do this."

In summer 2015, the cafe opened as a community interest company run by a board which included Mrs Mackay and her daughter Charlotte.

It is open on weekends and offers free sessions with trained counsellors, and art therapy.

Mrs Mackay said: "Through Johnny's Happy Place people know his name and we speak his name every single day.

"I think Johnny would be stunned into silence that his name was there for all to see.

"He would be absolutely over the moon."

For more information about mental health issues, help and support visit available at bbc.co.uk/actionline.

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