A few days ago the Prime Minister announced a new initiative to address the ever increasing numbers of young people suffering from mental health issues. Whilst welcoming the new proposals the local young people’s charity, Eikon, based in New Haw, expressed concerns. Eikon Chief Executive said “Young people need help now”.
“Eikon has been working in this area for over 21 years and demand for our services has never been higher. People who believe that Surrey is a leafy gladed, highly prosperous county do not see the underlying problems facing many of our young people”.
Recent reports have shown that 27,000 under 19s live in poverty. 12,000 young people act as the main carer for family members. 7 of the 11 boroughs rank in the top 10 nationally for hazardous drinking amongst adults. All 4 postcode areas in Surrey are in the top 15 nationally for unsecured debt. It is not surprising that these issues amongst many others are having a profound effect on young people.
Across the UK, young people are subject to a wide range of additional stresses. Of particular concern is family breakdown. Surrey has the highest divorce rate in the country outside London. Media pressure relentlessly urges the latest gadgets and fashions, a perfect body shape and lifestyle. 24 hour social media challenges their image and reputation, often from within their own peer group. Add to that family and school pressure to get the right grades. Sexting is becoming a new norm. In October The Times reported that 48% of girls between 13 -17 have sent “pornographic” pictures of themselves via social media. Increasing levels of online grooming and other forms of child sexual exploitation are constant concerns, as is self-harming.
As Chris Hickford puts it: “ It is not surprising that the number of young people experiencing mental health issues is rising rapidly. We exist to help young people navigate through all of these issues. It takes time and individually designed support programs can be short or long term. It needs to be relationship based. Gaining trust and belief. Young people tell us that they much prefer one to one support instead of becoming “patients” going through a process and being passed from person to person and from one organisation to another.
One of the government’s initiatives is to train teachers in schools to recognise the symptoms of mental health issues. Hickford agrees. “This is a good idea but what then? Into a system?” Eikon’s primary focus lies in putting trained Youth Specialists into schools where they are available to work with young people on a daily basis. Often the relationship will last for several years. They currently work in six schools in Surrey, working with over 1,000 young people a year. And it works. Peer group review has shown Eikon’s methods to be highly effective.
“Regrettably the demand for our services is increasing year on year” says Hickford and we need financial help if we are to grow to meet this need”
Eikon are running a campaign across social media to highlight the transformation in young people their preventative and relational approach delivers. To donate and support positive change today visit #eikonpositivechange.