When John*, 14, was referred to Heads Together by CAMHS he had been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He self-excluded from school due to bullying, was self-harming and had made an attempt to end his own life.

In his first session, John explored what differences he would like to see as a result of counselling. He decided he would like to see his friends more, get back into education, and generally feel happier. By the end of the session John felt motivated to start up activities that he used to enjoy doing.

As the sessions continued, John explored his network of friends and family and built a clearer sense of who he wanted to spend more time with. He identified that the majority of his worries were around school. John felt out of control and was waiting for his mum to sort out moving to a new school. With help from his counsellor, John looked at how he could take back some control by thinking about which teachers he trusted and felt able to talk to.

By the end of his sessions, John was looking forward to having a fresh start. By having the opportunity to come up with his own solutions, he felt empowered to do small tasks to make his life a little bit better each week. John had been meeting friends and was excited about starting in a new school. He had a clear plan of what he wanted to do in the next five years and felt positive about the future.

Heads Together offers free and confidential counselling to 14-24 year olds at venues across East Surrey. Counselling allows young people to talk about their difficulties, with someone who is separate from school and home life, and can help them to find ways to cope and to get back to enjoying life.

During 2016/17 Heads Together ran over 2,500 counselling sessions and provided free counselling to 308 young people.

The need for counselling is greater than ever with 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5-16 suffering from a mental health disorder** – around 3 children per class.

Children and young people come to Heads Together with a diverse range of problems. Many talk about family or relationship difficulties, bullying at school, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, with a number facing abuse and violence.

YMCA’s Heads Together counsellors are trained to listen with empathy and help young people deal with negative thoughts and feelings, enabling them to make independent choices and find their own voice.

Looking ahead, the team will be delivering more mental health education workshops in schools, educating both students and staff members about key mental health issues, thanks to funding from the Community Foundation for Surrey.

Read more about Heads Together

* Name has been changed for confidentiality.
** Source: www.youngminds.org.uk (Oct 2014)