Three quarters of mental health difficulties occur before the age of 25, and half before the age of 14 (Kessler et al., 2005). Early intervention can have positive effects on outcomes (e.g. Correll et al., 2018), yet children and young people are less likely to seek support from mental health services (Rickwood, Deane & Wilson, 2007).
But, many organisations believe that social prescribing activities can help young people and adults, and the people who support them, to manage and improve their health and wellbeing in ways that are enjoyable and engaging.
It’s something artist and National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) Ambassador Ashton Attzs is passionate about and discussed on NASP’s Podcast on Prescription:
“Arts for me has always been about the enjoyment and process, rather than the outcome. We need to find ways to help people find meaning and support in a way that matters to them. That’s where social prescribing works. Speaking to an individual and finding out maybe what they’re going through, or what it is that they specifically need and tailoring something to them and to their needs, is great. It’s a way for people to express themselves and connect with other people, and for young people to see that their voices are being heard.”
37 projects, funded through the Thriving Communities Fund, led by National Academy for Social Prescribing and supported by partners are delivering innovative activities to support people who have been impacted by COVID-19. And this includes young people.
In Greenwich the HER Centre have established a new partnership with Tramshed and Live Well Greenwich (Greenwich social prescribing) to develop and enhance the young person’s social prescribing offer. This pilot programme will show how a youth social prescriber can work effectively with bespoke services for those with mental health and relationship needs and more widely with sport, local conservation, work training, benefits and housing advice. Young people can also access free food, holiday food programmes, and crisis support with housing and immigration. The Her Centre New Leaf uses group sessions for at-risk, boys, and dedicated girls’ IDVA to help them recognise abusive relationships. It offers emotional and practical support including advice, counselling, free food, advocacy with statutory agencies, to help those experiencing family abuse, rape, peer abuse and online threats and harassment.
As Stacy Smith CEO, Her Centre says:
“By working together with our diverse partners, the young girls we see can access a much wider range of services once they are safe and free from abuse. Equally, our partners can now refer to us whenever they have concerns about a girl they are working with.”
Sunderland Social Prescribing Project is bringing together an array of activities to increase social connectedness and help communities cope with the impact of COVID-19. Partner organisation, Sunderland Carers Centre, know only too well how important additional support and provision is for carers at this time. Sunderland Carers Centre provides information, advice, guidance and support to carers from the age of five and over. The specialist trained team support families with their caring responsibilities to enable to them to have a fulfilling life outside of their caring role. There are an estimated 32,000 carers in Sunderland and over 2,000 young carers.
Thanks to Thriving Communities funding, the partnership have some exciting plans in place to build on the existing relationships between Sunderland Culture and the Thriving Community partners. Young carers are a priority for Sunderland’s programme delivery and we will be delivering an inspiring range of high-quality creative social prescribing activities to reach more young carers and their families in Sunderland.
Young Carer & Family Engagement Worker says:
“Through the partnership with Sunderland Culture, we’ve observed all members of the group grow in confidence, learning different techniques over the duration of the programme. The end result of the individuals delivering workshops to the general public at the Hetton carnival, we felt was highly successful where we witnessed individuals challenge themselves and step outside their comfort zones. One member stated they would not normally have the ability to speak with strangers never mind teach them new techniques. This gave them all a big confidence boost and they left the event feeling they had accomplished something new without the opportunity from Sunderland Culture these young carers would not have been able to learn these new skills and techniques.”
In Wolverhampton, led by the CVS, they are extending their social prescribing service to young people. Having seen the power and value of the adult social prescribing service and recognising the unique complexities of working with young people, they want to extend their offering to those under 18. The Thriving Communities project will work with 150 young people aged 13-17 to form an integrated element of the city-wide social prescribing service.
James Sanderson, CEO of NASP says:
“Social prescribing works because it encourages people to think about what health and wellbeing means for them, and directs them to activities that allow this. We hope that by integrating social prescribing into the system from an early age, young people will be given the opportunity to think about what works for them, and have access to resources and communities that will support them.”
The NHS Long Term Plan, which outlined social prescribing as key to the NHS’s commitment to a model of more person-centred, integrated care, has an ambitious programme for introducing over 4,500 link workers into PCNs by 2023, and indeed over 1,300 have already been employed. This is alongside link workers already working in the voluntary and community sector.
To find out more about the Thriving Communities Programme visit here.