Mental Health Awareness Week begins tomorrow, with the NSPCC shining a spotlight on a new service in Croydon which helps children and young people deal with any problems affecting their happiness or wellbeing.
Positive Pathways, which is available for free via the charity’s Croydon Service Centre, is designed to help boys and girls aged 7 to 18 solve their problems and worries by building their confidence, skills, strength and resilience so they can cope with them now and in the future.
Problems can include:
- family issues
- peer pressure or bullying
- low self-confidence
- issues at school
- anxiety and stress
- personal safety
- feelings of anger, sadness or rejection.
Peter Swan, from the NSPCC Croydon centre, said: “During the first meeting the child is asked by the children’s services practitioner allocated to them what they want to change in their life and to set themselves a goal for a preferred future – something that’s clear and achievable.
“We then use a solution-focused therapeutic approach which encourages them to think about the steps they need to take in order to achieve that goal and make things better. Basically, we work from the future backwards.
“For example if a child’s goal is to make more friends we’d ask them to think about how life might look with those new friends in it and they might say playing football in the park, bringing people home, going to the cinema, and eating ice cream together. We then get them to look at the steps they could take to make that happen such as chatting to people in school, being confident, laughing and making jokes to attract new friends.
“It’s all about empowering them so they can feel happier and more confident, so they can deal with any issue in their life that they are struggling with.”
Children can refer themselves to the confidential service or they can be referred by a teacher, parent, carer or social worker. No matter how they come to access the service, the child has to give their consent to take part in the work, which consists of eight one-hour sessions held once a week at a location chosen by the young person at a time that suits them.
The sessions are always led by the young person and tailored to their style of learning, so if someone is creative they might use drawings to show their preferred life goal.
“At the start we also talk to the young person about the support they want to receive,” Swann said. “This might be one-to-one sessions, having a parent, carer or someone they trust attend the sessions or offering additional support to their parent or carer so they can help their child maintain the changes they have achieved during the work.
“If the child chooses the latter the adult has to be on board with the child’s goal. We then hold one session with the parent or carer followed by a joint session with the child. The aim is for the adult to recognise the crucial part they play in their child achieving their goal by creating better communication and better understanding between them.
“At the end of the service, children and young people definitely experience an improvement in their emotional health.”
To find out more about accessing Positive Pathways, contact the NSPCC’s Croydon Service Centre on 020 8253 1850.
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