THE BLOG
09/02/2016 07:34 GMT | Updated 05/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Strong Young Minds - Inspiring Future Mental Wellbeing for young people

It's the UK's first Children's Mental Health Week, organised by Place2Be, a national charity that works in schools to deliver therapeutic support to young people, their families and carers.

I've become jaded with the lack of care and support that both myself and friends are receiving, so thought it was about time I looked for the positives that are out there. Young people are - quite rightly - at the centre of a lot of the government's initiatives around improving mental health care and so I decided to use the Children's Mental Health Week to find out what support is available to young people in my local area. I hooked up with Kerry Gibson-Yates, Coordinator of Herefordshire's Strong Young Minds project - and found a good news story to start the week.

So Kerry, tell me about Strong Young Minds.

The CLD Trust has a long history of supporting young people with mental health issues and their involvement in the Children and Young People's Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (CYPIAPT) national programme led to the birth of the Strong Young Minds project. It was clear that young people want and need to access support earlier. If we can get appropriate help in place as soon as a young person identifies that they have issues which will negatively impact on their mental health, the outcomes for them are much more positive.

What kind of issues are young people needing help with?

There's a huge range of problems for young people today - anxiety, especially around school or college is really prevalent, as are depression, eating disorders and self-harming. We're able to step in and make sure that each young person that comes to us can access the support they need to address their problems before they escalate.

How can young people access Strong Young Minds?

We have a website where professionals and young people can refer online, young people advised us that they wanted to be able to self refer to the project and we have made this a priority. When we started we were delighted that 40% of our referrals came from the young person themselves. Strong Young Minds is very much about putting the young person at the centre of their care and so having young people who are able to recognise they want and need support - and giving them the opportunity to ask for it - is just fantastic.

We've found that a lot of young people are really well-informed about mental health and they want to support their peers as well. It's why we recruit SYM Champions - young people who can talk about mental health and the support that's out there to their friends, classmates and other peer social groups. They are highly involved in shaping the project to make sure it stays relevant to young people and most importantly they are passionately working to reduce the stigma around mental health. We're always on the lookout for new champions too - it's a great opportunity for any young person who wants to get active in their community.

And what support do young people access from Strong Young Minds?

It all depends on the needs of each individual, but we offer one-to-one support with a personal adviser where we can work through specific problems and set goals for the future, as well as self-help strategies. We also offer the opportunity to access talking therapies such as counselling & cognitive behavioural therapy alongside a variety of workshops and group work addressing issues affecting young people and of course mental health awareness training.

We also work with parents and carers to help them recognise the signs of poor mental health and how they can best support their young people & where they can access support. It can be really difficult for families and the signs aren't always easy to spot - being withdrawn or sleeping a lot can just be a normal part of adolescent development as well as signs of poor mental health, so we make sure parents and carers are empowered with the knowledge to know when they need to ask for help.

If you had one wish around young people and mental health, what would it be?

Only one wish? All good genies offer three don't they? I wish that every young person who requires support around their mental health can access it quickly and it's provided with compassion and without discrimination.

Talking to Kerry filled me with a great deal of hope - and that's rare for me these days. Her passion and enthusiasm, as well as boundless subject knowledge made me realise that there are reasons to be cheerful about the future, and with five years' of Big Lottery funding, Strong Young Minds can transform the way young people with mental health issues are treated, cared for and empowered to recover.

If you're a young person struggling with poor mental health, or are caring for someone with mental health issues there are a number of organisations that can help.

You can call the Young Minds parents helpline - 0808 802 5544 - if you're worried about a child or young person's behaviour or mental health or call Child Line, a counselling service for young people, parents and children on 0800 111.

For more information on the Strong Young Minds project, visit www.thesymproject.org or follow them on Twitter @StrongYMinds