Sidmouth youth leader moves to head up Headlight project

Ben Feasey Picture: Philippa Davies

Ben Feasey Picture: Philippa Davies - Credit: Picture: Philippa Davies

Sidmouth’s new mental health support service for young people, Headlight, will be run by the current co-ordinator of Sidmouth Youth Centre.

Ben Feasey is handing that job over to another member of Young Devon, Emily Sethi, as he prepares to begin the Headlight sessions in April.

The non-clinical, informal peer support sessions will take place at the youth centre on Monday evenings.

They will alternate between sessions for 13 to 18 year olds and 18 to 24 year olds, so that each group meets every two weeks.

The evenings will be run by a group facilitator, a mental health worker and trained volunteers.

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Mr Feasey said the service has been set up in response to serious gaps in provision for young people with mental health problems.

He is part of the Wellbeing and Health Action Team set up in the Sid Vale more than a year ago to look into the issue, and explore solutions.

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The team was already concerned about cuts to youth funding, the lack of early intervention on mental health issues, and long waits for treatment from the NHS's CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

He said: "We did a year's worth of research with the school and the local authority, looking at the gaps in services.

"Really, it's not just the issue of mental health, it's the rurality of it.

"If you've got someone living in Sidmouth who needs support, the support that did exist was being on a waiting list for nine months or a year, and then trying to get to Exeter every week.

"Parents can't afford to take them there and they're too young to get the bus.

"There are so many barriers, and you're waiting for so long, and unfortunately bad things can happen in that time."

Mr Feasey said the aim had been to make sure there was a variety of options open to young people needing support.

The youth centre offers opportunities to talk about mental wellbeing, and school nurses can also help.

Primary school children can have cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), arranged through the wellbeing practitioner who works in the primary school.

Mr Feasey said: "So hopefully, within one of those four options there should be a version of help for them, because having one set model doesn't work for everybody."

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