Lead Organisation: Sheffield YMCA
Core partners: Main partners: YMCA White Rose & the Children and Young People's Empowerment Project. Also Sheffield Futures, PCT Community Development Team, NHS Sheffield, CAMHS, NSPCC, Sheffield Futures, YASY, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Health and Social Care.
Target area: North East Sheffield
Target groups: Young people not in education, employment or training; long-term unemployed young adults; teenage/young parents; BME young people.
Sheffield is a city with a population of around 550,000 in South Yorkshire that has grown from its largely industrial roots to encompass a wider economic base.
Mental health context:
The area suffers from a combination of high numbers of young people vulnerable to, or suffering from, poor mental health and insufficient provision of services to address these issues.
‘There’s just nothing about mental well-being for this age group in the area.’ (Project staff: Sheffield).
Right Here is working specifically in the North East of Sheffield where there are higher than average levels of deprivation and unemployment (ranking of overall deprivation of between 7% and 14%). Young people in the area are more likely to be exposed to risk factors that may have a negative impact on their mental health.
The area has high proportions of refugees and asylum seekers and young people from Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and not in education, employment or training (NEET). Such young people were said to often be socially isolated and lack appropriate support to maintain good mental health in difficult circumstances.
Involving young people:
Right Here Sheffield’s youth panel was established very early on in the life of the project. The panel is known as STAMP. The acronym stands for Support, Think, Act, Motivate, Participate and the name was intentionally chosen by its participants to have no identifiable mental health connection. It has a role in every aspect of the project. It provides input on the strategic direction of Right Here, such as suggesting the five themes for the project’s activities last year, and it:
- Leads on the design, development and implementation of anti-stigma materials
- Attends operational and strategic partnership meetings on a rotational basis
- Helps with the delivery of Right Here activities.
In the past year the project has also set up two new young people’s groups: the Mental Health Ambassadors and the Y-Act Counselling Group, both comprised of young people with mental health problems. The Ambassadors are being trained to act as advocates and role models for other young people experiencing mental health issues.
The Y-Act group has been researching mental health services for 16–25 year olds across the country and online and have been working with an artist to explore their own mental health and use of services. Their experiences will be pulled together into a leaflet for other young people to raise awareness of, and normalise, young people’s mental health.
What’s happened so far?
Right Here Sheffield has undertaken a variety of therapeutic group work activities in colleges and other settings, including a successful anger management course (Cage the Rage), and a range of anti-stigma/awareness-raising projects including the production of anti-stigma board game, ‘Dare you Share?’ – based entirely on research conducted by the STAMP group.
Download a case study outlining how the work of STAMP (Support, Think, Act, Motivate, Pariticipate) is making life better for young people with mental health difficulties in a number of creative ways.
Download now (PDF)
‘Dare you Share’ is being promoted to schools and colleges in Sheffield as a tool to encourage discussion about mental health. The response has been very positive, with many requesting the game, as well as additional mental health support and training. STAMP has also designed a workshop to be used alongside the game.
The STAMP group has also undertaken peer research into stigma and come up with a series of recommendations for decision makers. The next step in this process will be to carry out focus groups and interviews with hard-to-reach young people around mental health and well-being, to ensure that their views are included in the recommendations.
Walk and Talk
This therapeutic programme provided vulnerable young people aged 16–25 with ongoing support through outdoor activity sessions aimed at embedding new life-changing habits and providing social support.
In practice the issues being addressed were often physical, such as eating disorders (eating too much or too little), but stemmed from a mental health problem.
The activity began as six 50-minute weekly sessions of one-to-one counselling with three (one per month) sessions offering group exercise and social support. Subsequently the therapy became more open-ended: some young people needed the original six sessions just to adapt to the environment, so following a review their counselling sessions were extended.
The group activities became more popular and more varied – not confined to the ‘Walk’ element in the name – albeit difficult to organise because of the young people’s commitments.
Young people were fully engaged in the choice of group activities which included:
- day excursions in the local area.
All suggestions were taken seriously and none dismissed. Based on what the young people had said they wanted to do, staff produced a selection of possible activities from which the group could choose.
Once an activity or outing had been chosen, staff took responsibility for its organisation which ensured that it ran smoothly and expectations of enjoyment were met. Counsellors, who were flexible about where the counselling took place, also attended these activities to provide one-to-one time for any young person who wanted it.
This combination of one-to-one counselling and group activities worked very well. Combining the two avoided the potential traps of the activity becoming either precious and focused solely on problems or purely a diversionary fun-based activity, which, though enjoyable, might have had limited impact on participants’ longer-term well-being.
Additionally, group activities served to alleviate the isolation reportedly experienced by the young people engaged in therapy. As such they increased social skills, boosted self-confidence and promoted resilience.
A further positive feature of this activity was its flexibility. Counselling for the young people was available but by no means mandatory and staff were not precious about where and when the counselling took place. They were available during group activities or on other informal occasions: one young person described how she was able to phone the counsellor whenever she wanted and sometimes met her for one-to-one sessions at the bus station so they could walk and talk together. She appreciated the counsellor’s flexibility which meant that help could be obtained when it was needed.
Furthermore, participants could (and did) opt in and out of activities and counselling as they wished or felt able at any particular point in time. This showed respect for the young people, generated an ethos that the service was there for them (not vice versa) and was in line with the view expressed by one stakeholder respondent that once they reach a certain age young people are not happy at having things done to them. In turn this afforded those attending with a sense of security and contentment.
Comments received from two service users were:
‘This is the only place I can come and feel safe’ (Service User).
‘The staff made me feel so comfortable it’s unbelievable’ (Service User).
Service users also made positive reference to the way in which members of the group supported each other and were able to develop familial relationships:
‘The group has been very supportive, I always felt at home’ (Service User).
‘I call them [others in the group] my brothers and sisters’ (Service User).
The relationship between staff and users was a key factor not only during the sessions but also as a means of maintaining the young people’s attendance.
‘Throughout …we’d seen how important the relationship between staff and young people was to keep young people attending.’ (Delivery staff member)
Visit the Right Here Sheffield website