Overwhelming support for youth wellbeing in the Sid Valley

Room full of people meeting

The WHAT meeting in October 2019 was very well attended by over 50 people - Credit: WHAT

There is a significant problem with youth wellbeing in the Sid Valley.
Just over a year ago WHAT (Wellbeing and Health Action Team for the Sid Valley) was launched in Sidmouth to bring the community and key organisations together to address the growing mental health needs of young people here and the lack of local services to support them.
We had an extraordinary response from the public and began the journey to deliver an ambitious programme locally.

Lady smiling and looking straight at the camera

Di Fuller, Chair of Trustees Sid Valley Help and Chair WHAT Steering group - Credit: Di Fuller

Then in March Covid stopped our plans in its tracks and many projects planned for April had to be put on hold. Despite this, the organisations involved have achieved an extraordinary amount and will tell their story of WHAT so far and WHAT next in this newspaper.
There are multiple projects that by coming together have achieved more than working alone. Here is a snapshot of what has been

The community response for funding to pay for specialist provision was overwhelming and we soon had enough to fund Headlight, a peer support programme that provides a friendly, non-clinical space for young people who are experiencing emotional and mental health issues and their families.
Plans for an April start were paused until October but Action East Devon is now working with six young people in Sidmouth, offering one-to-one support online and by phone during lockdown, and restoring face-to-face group sessions after Christmas. Their YouTube channel offers support through mindfulness and reviews on many other wellbeing apps and services for young people. They are taking new referrals via their website www.actioneastdevon.org.uk. Ben Feasey the manager for Headlight works closely with WHAT.
At the beginning of the pandemic the Primary school focussed on emotional support available through Facebook and letters home to parents. Again many planned activities were cancelled or postponed. There was anxiety about year six transition to the College but WHAT members worked together to try and reduce this. Despite concerns about returning to school after the first lockdown, children seemed glad to be back and help was available to support children with anxiety. There are many displays promoting wellbeing around the school and pupil mental health Ambassadors have been appointed. Support for parents continues.
Returning in September Sidmouth College students developed a wellbeing action plan and were helped with information about resources as needed. There is an increase in capacity and range of one-to-one support available within the college from the school nurse, employed and volunteer counsellors. The College received the Carnegie Centre of Excellence Mental Health Gold Award for Schools this year – a great achievement and a reflection of the amount of work that has been done to support young people’s wellbeing.
The youth centre continued to operate via Zoom Club during the first lockdown and limited face-to-face activity when allowed. Information to parents and carers was circulated via the schools and college. Emily Sethi, Youth Work Coordinator is also the Wellbeing Practitioner funded by Sidmouth Town Council. In her wellbeing role, Emily has supported 11 families in Sidmouth this year involving work with parents, parents and child together or just with the child or young person. Sessions are delivered in college, the primary school, at the youth centre, on walks in the community and online. The work is collaborative, young people setting their aim and goals, and support and guidance given in a way that works for them. Self-referrals are possible or can come from school and college, as well as young people who access the Youth Centre.
When WHAT was launched we recognised that more Parent Support was needed for those with children with wellbeing issues. Courses that were underway in March had to stop but a lot of provision has restarted, including:
· Workshops run by a mental health therapist and Primary school staff
· A parent support group for those with children with challenging behaviours
· A new Parent and baby group
· A Zoom workshop on the Teenage Brain planned for January. Look out for more information.
· Support work for families from the Wellbeing Practitioner

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