Nicole was 15 years old when her mum approached YMCA East Surrey for support. Suffering with extreme anxiety and depression, she had dropped out of school, wouldn’t talk and spent her days lying in bed, facing the wall.

Today, two years on, Nicole is friendly, quietly confident and chatty. She credits much of this change to the support of her one-to-one mentor and YMCA Youth Worker, Keri Marshall.

“I had always been quite shy,” remembers Nicole, “but after a fall when I broke my ankle, my anxiety spiralled out of control and I couldn’t face going back into school. I was so depressed I didn’t even want to live any more, but I couldn’t find a way to reach out. I stopped speaking as I was terrified of being sectioned.”

Keri remembers the early days when she started visiting the family.

“I would go up to Nicole’s bedroom and sit with her while she lay in bed,” says Keri. “There was no communication from her at all, but I told Nicole that I would be there for her, regardless of whether or not she spoke to me. I wanted her to trust me.”

After two to three months, Nicole began to talk. They were just one-word answers to begin with, but it was a huge breakthrough. It gave us something to build on.

Over the following months, YMCA East Surrey worked together with CAMHS to secure Nicole a place at a school specialising in helping children and young people with anxiety. In June 2017, Nicole sat her GCSE’s with their support and gained passes in Maths, Science and English.She has recently completed her first year at college, studying Health and Social Care and is considering using her own experiences to help others in the future.

“Returning to education has gradually brought me out of my shell,” says Nicole. “My confidence is growing, and I’ve made friends. I feel that I can be myself now.”

She was recently part of a team of young people who facilitated a Youth Advisors Awards event, performing on stage in front of a large audience, and is keen to help shape services for young people in the future. She has also gained work experience this year as a bank YMCA Playworker.

“When I met Nicole,” says Keri. “I saw a young person who was locked in with her pain and at her absolute lowest. Now, she is a different person – she’s happy and she’s able to communicate her feelings and aspirations.”

“I can’t put into words how much the YMCA’s one-to-one mentoring has meant to me and my family,” says Nicole. “If it wasn’t for Keri, I honestly don’t think I’d be here today.”

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