Offering support to teenagers

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Being a teenager can be a tricky time Charlotte Harding finds out more about a service offering support.

In recent months raising awareness and combatting the issues surrounding mental health has been at the front of the news agenda.

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This in part is thanks to charities like Heads Together, whose patrons are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry all of which have spoken out about their own mental health and encouraged people to say when they aren’t ok.

Breaking the stigma and talking about it is something that Natalie Trowell from Believe in You is passionate about.

“I really believe that when it comes to mental health you need to get in there early so that children don’t grow up with those ideas surrounding mental health that you should feel embarrassed about saying you need help,” she explains. “I want it so people feel comfortable talking to others and saying ‘I’m not ok’.”

Natalie would really love to see it brought in at a primary school level and to be featured on the curriculum.

“By the time we get to them at the schools we work at, they are adolescents and the stigmas and some of the issues are already there,” she says.

“I think the earlier you get kids talking the more it will help in the future.”

Believe in You is an independent support service for children and families experiencing a wide range of emotional and psychological issues.

Natalie, who is originally from Hastings, set it up seven years ago.

She had previously worked in the mental health sector before working with children who have been bereaved.

“I started working in schools and then realised that I had enough experience and decided to go out on my own,” the teen mentor and counsellor explains.

“I was already working at a school who had just lost its counsellor and so they brought me in and I started to work with the teenagers.”

Through counselling, life coaching and education, Natalie and her team work with predominantly teenagers but offers support to those aged seven to 18.

The sessions are delivered through workshops in schools, one-to-one sessions at people’s homes and also training parents so they are aware of how to deal with a situation with their child and talk them through it.

“The one-to-one sessions vary depending on the child,” she says.

“We have done kickboxing, art therapy and sitting down and chatting. It depends, some teenagers don’t want to talk but if you are doing something they can open up better.

“We are trying to build resilience amongst teenagers.”

It specialises in issues including depression, anxiety, self-harm, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, problems at school, risky behaviours, social isolation, body image/gender issues and anger management.

Natalie firmly believes that building a teenager’s self-esteem now means it will help them as adults.

“I think if they have high self esteem they won’t put themselves in risky situations in the future as they won’t devalue themselves,” she says.

“We also do a lot on social media safety.

“There is a lot of pressure now on kids. We want to empower girls to say no if they are asked to send a nude picture.”

With a shift at looking at social media, something which wouldn’t have been so much of an issue maybe five years ago, Natalie has also seen a change in who is accessing the services.

“When we started in the school it was about a 70/30 split with girls and boys but now I think it is more like 55/45,” she reveals.

“I think boys are seeing it as more acceptable to come and chat to us and we want to be somewhere they feel they can come to and talk.”

The services are currently available across Sussex and Kent, or online via Skype.

Being a teenager in the 21st century has a lot more pitfalls than generations before but thanks to services like Believe in You it is reassuring to know that there is help out there.

For more information Believe in You and the services it offers visit www.believeinyouteens.co.uk

For more on charity Heads Together, visit www.headstogether.org.uk

This first featured in the July edition of etc Magazine pick up your copy now.