11 February 2015

Photo (from left to right) Stuart Rayner and his daughter, Emma, from the Lucy Rayner Foundation, present their cheque to YMCA East Surrey’s Heads Together Manager, Sarah Kenyon, and Chief Executive, Ian Burks.

This month, YMCA East Surrey’s Heads Together project has employed two new counsellors in a bid to expand their free and confidential counselling services for local young people.

“We have largely been able to do this thanks to a new partnership with the Lucy Rayner Foundation who have provided funding of £12,000 towards new counselling initiatives,” explains Heads Together Manager, Sarah Kenyon.

“We now have a three point plan in place which will help us to develop the service we can offer to young people between the ages of 14 and 24.”

Heads Together referrals were up by 19% last year, with 561 local young people approaching the team for help.

“The last thing we want when someone is in need of our services is to place them on a long waiting list,” says Sarah. “These new funds will enable us to reduce waiting times for clients and offer more one to one counselling sessions. We hope that our partnership with the Lucy Rayner Foundation will be an ongoing arrangement so that it can provide lasting benefits for local young people in the future.”

The need for youth counselling is growing all the time. Over the last ten years the number of young people admitted to hospital because of self-harm has increased by 68%. 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5-16 have been diagnosed as suffering from a mental health disorder.

The Heads Together team are now developing a programme of education on mental health issues to take into schools and colleges.

“It is so important to let young people know exactly how they can ask for help,” says Sarah. “And in some cases, we hope to provide the information and tools needed to help them manage the issues themselves.”

There are also plans to establish a support group for parents and carers who are dealing with mental health issues within the family and may be suffering from feelings of isolation and despair themselves.

“We know first-hand how serious an impact mental health issues can have on a family,” explains Stuart Rayner, 52, from the Lucy Rayner Foundation.

Stuart’s daughter, Lucy, took her own life in 2012 at the age of 22. Lucy had suffered from mood swings and been to see a doctor but was not diagnosed as having depression or a mental illness. Her death was an enormous shock to her family and to the community.

“Focussing on raising money to help other young people who are struggling with mental health issues has allowed us to keep Lucy’s memory alive in a very positive way,” says Stuart. “Counselling was not offered to Lucy and we hope that our support of the Heads Together project will bring about a vital change in dealing with mental health issues in their early stages.”

Read more about YMCA East Surrey’s Heads Together programme