Our Young Mental Health Champions project is a 1 year Department of Education funded programme. Mental Health Champions encompasses three YMCAs spread across the country (East Surrey, Worcestershire and Norfolk) and works to increase awareness and destigmatise mental health problems amongst 11 to 21 year olds.
Initially running for a year, the project will operate a peer to peer approach to encourage young people to start discussing and sharing the issues which they are concerned about, and offer a counselling service to ease current pressure on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. The young champions will be able to provide support, mentoring and buddying to help guide their peers through what can be a frightening or isolating process.
We will also work with key adults, such as teachers and youth workers, to build their confidence in talking about mental health to young people.
The project uses peer education as a way for young people to pass on key mental health messages to other young people and to sign post to existing services. By training the young champions in key areas surrounding mental health and resilience they will then act as peer support, including signposting them to the correct available health service already in place, or an activity the champions have created themselves.
Our Young Mental Health Champions will also act as young consultants helping to represent young people’s views on existing local health services. This is vital to ensure that young people’s needs are being met and to give them the ability to impact the health sector ensuring all services are accessible. This will be achieved through a steering group of Young Mental Health Champions and key figures from other health and wellbeing organisations.
Throughout the whole project, the Young Mental Health Champions will have continued support and guidance from our project coordinator and from other Young Mental Health Champions.