Mental Health Champions
YMCA Mental Health Champions is a comprehensive programme that aims to improve the mental health of young people aged 11 – 21.
This new programme offers three key services: Peer support programme in schools and the community, Key adult education and awareness workshops, and a Counselling service.
By using three interconnected strands, the project helps to raise awareness and destigmatise mental health issues, offers a fully quality assured counselling service and improves the knowledge and support that key adults, including teachers and parents, can offer the young people they work with.
We involved young people from the outset to help design our materials and messages to make sure it connects with the people the service is aimed at. We also recruit and support young people to be able to deliver the programme. The result is a youth focused service that supports young people to help themselves.
Our peer support element recruits, supports and trains young volunteers to become mental health champions. Our champions have access to six developed workshops, each focusing on different areas of mental health, increasing awareness, removing stigma and advising on easy to use coping strategies.
The programme offers four workshops to help key adults support the young people they come in to contact with. The workshops deal with topics such as anger, anxiety, depression and self-harm, offering practical advice on how they can begin the conversation with young people and also how their actions can help have a positive impact.
We recognise that peer support services should be offered as well as and not instead of professional services. We also know that it can be very difficult to access publicly funded counselling services and so Mental Health Champions offers a counselling service to those young people who need additional help but do not meet the referral criteria for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.