Local charity prepares to meet growing demand for mental health support for young people following lockdown

A North East charity that gives young people with mental health issues support and access to sport and fitness activities to help them to transform their lives, has seen a growing need for its services post-lockdown.

uS, is a North East mental health charity, that supports young people aged between 12 and 25-years-old with mental health conditions and those at risk, to combat worries, anxieties and stress and improve their quality of life through team and individual activity.

Over the last few months and especially since the beginning of lockdown, young people across the UK have reported increased anxiety and issues with confidence, as well as feelings of isolation from friends and their usual support networks. The charity has worked hard during lockdown to continue its services and has adapted to take face-to-face activity online, helping young people to connect virtually with each other and the uS team.

Founded in 2016 by Dr Mary Jane Tacchi, a local psychiatrist who recognised the positive impact physical activity has on young people’s mental health, the charity receives referrals from its valued network of agencies from the health, care, education and justice sectors.  Parents and young people also self-refer.

Young people are asked to choose an activity that meets their needs and interests and the uS team swiftly responds with an activity programme.

Over the past four years Dr Tacchi’s vision in practice has resulted in many young people transforming their lives through exercise, empowering them to grow their confidence through the setting and achievement of personal goals, whilst they make new friends and have fun. They are supported by members of the uS team who encourage them to draw up a personal fitness plan which will help them make physical exercise an invaluable and enjoyable part of their lives.

uS respond to the individual needs and interests of young people. Some may choose to experience ‘one-to-one’ activities and others will participate in small groups. A wide range of activities have been delivered including fitness training, yoga, archery, ice-skating, dodgeball, golf, horse riding, football, badminton, bowling walking and circus training. Over the years the team has developed and expanded its offer through feedback from young people, parents, carers, providers and referral organisations, seeking to know and understand what really makes a difference and how young people would like to take control or receive support.

Dr Tacchi, said: “Over recent months, we have been experiencing first-hand the unprecedented impact of the global health emergency due to Covid-19 and the effect that this is having on the mental health of so many young people in our region.

“During lockdown, the team has continued to work with as many young people as possible in the North East.

“We have witnessed the courage of some amazing young people who have embarked on our activities. Some have been supported by their families and others by agencies who have introduced them.

“We continue to be inspired by young people and their determination and it’s great to see the demand for our services picking up again post lockdown. We love to see the journey our young people take and how our services help to build confidence, start careers and transform lives.”

The team also supports parents and carers who are dealing with the mental health issues their children are experiencing.

Dr Tacchi, added: “Parents are not untouched by their child’s mental health issues and as we grow, we are keen to develop fitness groups for parents. We have already delivered some provision for both a parent and child together and this has been successful. We have also delivered yoga and fitness sessions at Walkergate Hospital family engagement days.”

‘S’ aged 20 has used the service.

They said: “I feel happier and can now do things I never thought possible. This has increased my confidence and self-belief. I no longer feel isolated and chronically anxious. I eat healthy food and feel better physically and mentally.

“I used to hate meeting new people, but although still shy, I am growing my friendship group. People tell me that I look so different. I smile and look them in the eye. I am beginning to believe that I have an exciting future!”

The charity has the support of Dame Margaret Barbour, who is both a patron and sponsor.

For more information, including how to get involved with the service, email [email protected] or visit the website www.uSactive.org.uk