Liz Sorton saw a potential opportunity to support the community, but she couldn’t do it alone. Here she shares how collaboration led to the launch of an initiative that could deliver great impact.
Young people are being affected by serious youth violence. Three years ago, I started attending community meetings with a focus on promoting positive activities for young people and community safety. At these meetings, I became more and more aware of the harmful effects of violence on the mental health of young people in my area and I wanted to do something positive to improve their mental health outcomes.
Having been actively working in my local area as a consultant and trainer, I saw the vital role that the adults in these young people’s lives play. School teachers, youth group staff, religious elders, sports club staff – they all play a part in shaping their lives. As they say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.
I started to consider that an impactful way to support the mental health of local young people would be to train these trusted adults to identify and support the mental health needs of the young people they work with. As an experienced coach for teenagers and young adults, I undertook accredited youth mental health first aid training with MHFA England almost two years ago, which has proven invaluable in supporting my clients and their parents. Backed by this experience, I began to consider how sharing this valuable skill could benefit the local area.
Unltd are an organisation offering cash awards, networking and mentorship opportunities for social entrepreneurs in the UK. I saw that they were looking for social entrepreneurs to innovate to improve the lives of people in the Bountagu area in North London, so I reached out with some ideas that could potentially secure funding. It was the beginning of a wonderful experience of collaboration.
The power of working with others who are like minded, really want you to succeed and are passionate about making a difference to their community was remarkable. Empowered by this non-judgmental spirit, I felt free to ask for help and support from others – something I’ve struggled with in the past. I worked with Unltd to develop the ideas further with the help of other social entrepreneurs and my mentor. Everyone supported each other to move our projects forward, including preparing for funding panel interviews together.
I am pleased to say I was successful in my award to deliver a Youth Mental Health First Aider programme. Through my programme, 12 new accredited youth mental health first aiders will be trained in organisations that work with young people in and around the Bountagu area this year.
What are MHFA courses?
As MHFA says: “Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses are for everyone who works with, lives with or supports young people aged 8-18. They teach you the skills and confidence to spot the signs of mental health issues in a young person, offer first aid and guide them towards the support they need. In doing so, you can speed up a young person’s recovery and stop a mental health issue from getting worse. Our courses won’t teach you to be a therapist, but we will teach you to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis – and even potentially stop a crisis from happening.”
I undertook my trainer training in February this year and following my trainer sign off from MHFA England shortly, my #TogetherUnLtd project will officially kick off. I’m delighted to be able to say this, and extremely thankful to Unltd for believing in the project. Without their mentoring, support and ongoing training this wouldn’t have been possible and I would urge any business to work in the same way. Because through collaboration, wonderful things can happen.
If your organisation works with young people, you are a parent or you were thinking about sending your staff onto an accredited youth mental health first aider course in the next two months, please do get in touch to find out more. I would love to train you and your staff.
For more information about the support offered by UnLtd go to www.unltd.org.uk
About the Author
Accredited Youth Mental Health First Aider.
Trainer in training for Youth Mental Health First Aid.