Christmas Reflections by CEO Chris Hickford

As I sit contemplating the end of another year at Eikon I feel two conflicting emotions.

The first is one of excitement and some pride in what we have achieved and how the charity continues to go from strength to strength.  Our growth has continued and I’m particularly pleased that we have extended our work in schools through programmes such as Smart Moves and Whole School Wellbeing. We’ve also grown the support we provide young people that prevents emerging well-being concerns from becoming significant mental health concerns. Our mergers with three organisations over the past two years have brought additional skills and experience to Eikon as well the ability to develop new ideas and services.  Eikon is now the largest youth charity in Surrey, working with 7,000 young people each year. We are highly regarded by our peers and partners.

The second emotion is one of immense frustration.  Despite our growth there is no let- up in the demand for our services.   The numbers keep rising.  According to the Times (October 8th) quoting the Educational Policy Institute “referrals to childrens mental health services had risen by 26% in the last five years, despite a 3% fall in population.   This storm of a mental health crisis shows no signs of abating.  In fact, it is getting worse.

The frustration is deepened by the knowledge that so many of the support systems are simply not getting to the heart of the issues.  Young people need to be treated as individuals.  All too often they become “patients” or clients in a system.  A case number to be processed. Passed on from one department to the next.  At each stage a box ticked, a number logged.  That is not to say that practitioners do not care. Of course, they do but they are hindered by “The System” and it’s rules and regulations.   From the very beginning Eikon’s core belief was firmly based on meeting the needs of the individual, recognising that each one is different.  This relationship based approach still lies at the very heart of what we do.  We fit our “systems” around the needs of each individual.  We acknowledge the influence and impact of the various environments that surround a young person and connect with them.  And we know it works. We see it working day after day.

In October this year Cate Newness-Smith, CEO of Surrey Youth Focus wrote: “The crisis that we have with children and young people’s mental health is not going to be solved in consulting rooms and clinical settings across our country. The crisis may be contained by professionals in clinical settings, but it is not going to be solved there.

 It will be solved in communities-in schools, in families, in friendship groups, in youth clubs, in charities.  Until we – councils, health services, parents, police, schools – work truly in partnership with young people to understand their lives and address the underlying causes together, the situation will only get worse”.

Cate is suggesting that cultural change is needed or otherwise known as a change is society and I heartily agree.  There is a wise African expression which says: “It takes a whole village to raise a child”. How much more successful could “The System” be if all of those who impact on an individual’s life combine, to not only help young people overcome their difficulties, but prevent many of them from occurring in the first place?  I am convinced that this is a far better approach and Eikon will pursue this in 2019 and beyond.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank you once more for your support over the last year.  We still have a long way to go but we would not have got this far if it were not for your encouragement and generosity.  We are truly grateful, as are the many young people we have been able to help.

I wish you a very enjoyable Christmas

Chris Hickford