Bespoke mental health support for children and young people
Last week The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) published recommendations for parliament in support of the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.
When discussing the value of community sector services, the NCB stated: “whole-system approaches are most effective at meeting children and young people’s needs, particularly for those with complex, multiple and long-term needs. Services delivered in the community provide flexible and cost-effective support while reaching underserved communities due to their universal, non-stigmatising and culturally responsive approach”.( National Children’s Bureau CYP0079).
On Monday, I had the privilege of seeing my whole team – all 28 of them – face-to-face in our termly staff meetings. I asked the team ‘What is it NESSie does?’ and ‘What sort of children and young people do we support?’ The answers that came from the team were brilliant. Words like; flexible; kind; personalised; trust; strengths focused; holistic; complex; trauma….emerged. So what is it we do? Let me give you some examples:
Online Support > Walking in a park
One of our therapists has been working with a young man who is so anxious about leaving his home that he hasn’t been able to go to college or access counselling before –what did the NESSie therapist do? Simple. They started a chat via WhatsApp messaging. Then they moved to video call. Now they meet weekly in a local park and walk together.
Engaging with therapy > engaging with the world
Another therapist takes her Pet Assisted Therapy dog Yoshi with her and walks in the park with two little girls who have ASC with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) traits. These girls don’t usually engage with therapy. They love Yoshi. The NESSie therapist tells me that last week they all had an ice cream and have decided to make it a weekly ritual. That means that these girls are engaging, choosing their flavours and ordering ice-creams. A big step for someone that finds the world extremely challenging!
A flexible approach – supporting the young person and the adults around them
Another two therapists are running a ‘supporting young people who are self-harming’ training in schools to support and build confidence amongst staff;
One therapist is going into schools offering 1-1 supervision;
Another therapist is supporting a trans young person with art therapy;
I was on the phone yesterday, supporting a mum who was so upset following her child’s sudden onset of anxiety she just needed to talk to someone;
One of our music therapists has just started working with a girl who has had five foster families recently and can’t settle…
I could go on and on but in short, the NCB are correct! The voluntary sector services are really helpful for those children and young people with complex, multiple and log-term needs in the community.
We are cost effective and personalised and help children and young people access helpful support. Sometimes we signpost; sometimes we help reduce fears; sometimes we are patient and flexible but overall, we are building positive working relationships. With only 31.5% of all young people who need mental health support, accessing help, we are all needed. Voluntary or statutory – it doesn’t matter – if the therapists are qualified, experienced and helpful we should see this shocking statistic change. Let’s all work together to give children and young people a choice so that they can find appropriate help.