A group of young people based in Durham want more social spaces made available in the UK to encourage better peer support for people with mental health issues.
‘Peer support’ is help and support given from people with lived experience of a mental illness or a disability to other young people.
Bethany Barnett, 19, who has struggled with her own mental health, attends a young adult support café at The Waddington Street Centre in Durham every Tuesday.
‘I think being around other young people who are struggling with their mental health like me really inspires me to make a difference.
‘The cafe initially started as a 10 week art project for 16-21year olds and it was around mental health support,’ explained Bethany, from Durham. ‘We realised we didn’t just want this to be a 10 week art programme, we wanted it to be a calm, open space.
‘It’s developed into an open space where you can do whatever art you want, you can sit down with a cuppa and open up to people you trust.
‘It’s my little escape; it’s a night off where I don’t have to think about the pressures of school. I can just go to the group and be a teenager again, be myself again.’
Bethany and the other café-goers believe these group sessions make young people happier and want to see more safe spaces opened to encourage young people to confide in each other.
The young adult support café has helped young people deal with and manage school pressures, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
Bethany added: ‘We have had people come to the café who never used to leave their house, people who are very anxious and people who struggled to be in a room with people for long periods of time.
‘We’ve really seen them come out of their shell more. It’s like this group has given them a new lease of life.’
The group have teamed up with Fixers and made a film showing why peer support is so important.
They hope to share their resource with organisations and councils in the UK in a bid to create more spaces so other young people can reap the benefits.
Bethany explained: ‘We hope people see our video and encourage their local areas to start a group similar to what we have.
‘This group has helped many people develop friendships for life – we are like family.’
This project was funded by County Durham CF.
To find other resources on this topic, and watch Fixers films, click on the image below.