Mental health has been a crucial issue for young people in the UK for many years, but it is widely recognised that the issue has become more pronounced as a result of Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis. For example, a recent survey by Direct Line Insurance and Mind found that 95% of young people are struggling with their mental health, and only 10 per cent of them love themselves completely, while UK Youth have found that more than 50% of young people say that the cost-of-living crisis has had a negative impact on their mental health.
Locally, the landscape is no different.
In March, Wigan Youth Zone conducted a poll with their members to ask them directly what the five biggest challenges they were facing, and the results were as follows; mental health, bullying, social media pressures, peer pressure and poverty. Additionally, the Youth Zone ran a report of the main safeguarding themes from the past months, and these were; mental health, self-harm, family relationships, online abuse, substance misuse and exploitation.
Since opening in 2013, Wigan Youth Zone has provided a fun and safe space for all young people aged 8-19 (up to 25 with additional needs) across the community to access for just 50p. As a result, the charity has demonstrated that there have been tangible benefits for thousands of young people such as improved confidence, reduced isolation, increased physical activity and reduced mental health, to name a few.
Over and above the day-to-day opportunities offered by the charity, the Youth Zone also provides more specialist services, both directly and via partners, to work more intensively with young people who require additional support. Examples of the services provided are wellbeing conversations, mentoring and issues-based group work.
These interventions can make a profound impact on the lives of young people, as was the case for one senior member (aged 17) who had been struggling with anxiety, low self-esteem and body dysmorphia.
They had been referred to Wigan Youth Zone’s 1-2-1 wellbeing service, by a trusted Youth Worker, who noticed their declining attendance and a visible difference in appearance. They were matched with a wellbeing Youth Worker, who provided them with emotional support, guidance and coping strategies, along with helping them to access other services and activities at the Youth Zone, such as the gym, arts and music.
The young person said: “Since starting wellbeing 1-2-1 sessions, I have gained more friends with a better social life. I am more active and motivated to get the best out of my life. The support has helped me to address my issues that have previously held me back, achieve personal health and wellbeing goals and has resulted in my achievements at college and focus on my aspirations for University. Now, I am much happier with myself and looking forward to my future.
Wigan Youth Zone’s well-being service is part of its holistic approach to supporting young people’s physical, mental and social development. The service, funded by The Oglesby Charitable Trust, offers 1-2-1 sessions, group workshops and drop-in on topics such as stress management, self-care and resilience. Over the last 12 months, Wigan Youth Zone has supported over 375 young people with 1,822 well-being sessions.
Wigan Youth Zone’s CEO, Anthony Ashworth-Steen, said: “At Wigan Youth Zone, we are acutely aware of the significant challenges that the young people in our community are facing, and we are proud that we are able to play our role in providing much-needed support for 375 young people over the past year. But our work does not stop here. There are still thousands of young people that are struggling with their mental health, and we want to support as many of them as we can, which we can only do through the generosity of our existing and future, funders.
Young people do not need to be alone, so if you know of someone that would benefit from our services then please contact us or visit our website for more information.”
Wigan Youth Zone believes that by investing in young people’s mental health, they are investing in their, and the community’s, future. The charity’s vision is to inspire young people to achieve their full potential, and by providing a safe and supportive space where young people can express themselves, explore their interests and aspirations and connect with others who share their experiences, Wigan Youth Zone aims to make a lasting difference in their lives and contribute positively to the community they live in.
For 10 months, Wigan Youth Zone is encouraging the local community to participate in a life-changing 10ForTheNextGen campaign. For more information on how you can support young people in your community, go to https://www.wiganyouthzone.org/ten-for-the-next-gen/ or, alternatively, email Lynsey Heyes at firstname.lastname@example.org.