A new social hub has opened in Salford in memory of a late RAF soldier.
Paul’s Haven and Family Hub opened on November 26 on Liverpool Road, Eccles to commemorate Paul Kavanagh, who would have been 28 on that day.
The hub was opened by a domestic abuse charity, Salford Survivor Project, and is described as a safe space for locals who suffer from mental health issues to come and socialise in.
Kavanagh, who was a flight lieutenant, committed suicide due to mental health issues in February 2021.
His Mother, Carla Healey, officially opened the place to the public.
She said: “He meant the world to me and I miss him every single day,” she said.
“He was like a protector for me, he was naughty and mischievous as a kid, but he made me feel safe.
“I was devastated, I can’t get it out of my head.”
The mother-of-two feels that more needs to be done to raise awareness around men’s mental health.
She said: “Mental health teams are not the best, I think they failed him to be fair,” she said.
“Men don’t talk, this is why we are opening this place, if we can even save one life, that is what it’s all about.
“We just want somewhere where people can open up and express themselves.”
The opening was attended by Kavanagh’s closest friends and family, where they served food, cakes and reminisced about his life.
The CEO of the Salford Survivor Project, Jane Gregory, knew Kavanagh since he was four.
She said: “He went to school with my son, he was a very clever kid, he was respectful, funny and good at sport.
“He played football and was really good at boxing, he fought for the RAF and won every fight he had.
“However, he did go to extremes sometimes, like when he and his friends would go out to drink, he would have a little too much and they would find him fast asleep with no shoes on.”
The CEO was devastated to hear of his death.
She explained: “My first instinct was to go straight to my son, to make sure he was OK,” she said.
“Then me and my daughter went the very next day to see the family, that was probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do, because you can’t help someone, and they are broken.
“And what you want to do is take the pain away, you’re in pain yourself, but you know that it’s not your pain, you don’t have a right because they’re in more pain because it’s their child.”
Gregory’s future plan is to run multiple kinds of sessions in the hub.
She explained: “The plan is to run community groups, and have spaces where we have specific groups for specific needs, so we are going to have a bereaved parents group,” she said.
“And we’ve got a young lady Marie, who is going to run it, she lost her son, and it’s something that she thinks is needed and I think it’s needed.
“The pain never goes but it’s how you cope with it, and that is where lived experience comes in.
“It’s about giving people hope that the intense pain is not going to be there forever.”
She is hoping to put these sessions on every day in the near future.
Matt Kavanagh, who was the cousin to Paul’s father, described the late RAF soldier as a healthy and vibrant young man.
He stated: “It’s hard for me not to remember him, he was such a big part of my life,” he said.
“And it could have been different, when people are struggling we need to get help as soon as possible.”
Kavanagh thinks there is still a stigma around men’s mental health.
He said: “I think it’s still attached to the whole macho image kind of thing, nobody wants to admit that they may be struggling or that they may be different,” he added.
“But you can reach out and you can still speak to someone.”
The number for the Salford Survivor Project is 0161 706 0468, They are open every day from 10am till 10pm.
Images taken from Jane Gregory and Ali Hussain