Referrals to a local counselling service for young people in Melksham trebled in 2021 – and with demand expected to continue to increase, the charity is appealing to the community to help raise money for the service to continue its support.
TeenTalk – a counselling service run by 4Youth (South West) at the Canberra Centre – received 60 referrals from the Melksham area to their service in 2021, compared to 19 referrals in 2020.
The service as a whole received 182 referrals from across North and West Wiltshire, compared to 50 referrals in 2020.
And according to 4Youth’s chair of trustees, Jon Hubbard, the service is on the verge of having to turn down referrals because the waiting time to see a counsellor can be up to three to four months.
“This absolutely horrifies us,” said Jon speaking to Melksham News. “We’re bordering on having to actually turn down young people – not because we don’t want to see them, but because the wait for a counsellor is so horrendous.
“And we suspect this demand will continue to increase and not reduce.
“So what we are desperately trying to do is look at how we can raise some extra funds, so we can buy some more counselling time.”
The counselling service offers free person-centred support for young people aged 10 to 25 who are experiencing mental health or well-being issues. It offers six to eight one-hour sessions (mostly face-to-face) from the Canberra Centre in Melksham – it also offers a face-to-face service in Chippenham, Trowbridge, and Westbury, as well as a telephone and video service.
About why he thinks there has been an increase in demand, Jon said, “There’s no two ways about it – Covid has played a significant factor – it has caused a significant impact on young people’s mental health.
“There were huge challenges for those caught up in the middle of the pandemic and the impact it had on their exams. But actually, it’s some of the latter effects of Covid that we are seeing come through in the referrals. What we’ve had is two years of young people not being able to properly socialise, which has severely impacted them.”
He also told Melksham News that the ‘level of need’ of those being referred to the counselling service is also on the rise. He explained that more young people are identifying as being at a ‘crisis level of need’ when assessed at the beginning of their counselling.
“The level of need is really going up,” said Jon, “and this is because we are seeing reductions in support from NHS child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), certainly early intervention work has all but disappeared out there.
“So therefore early help services like ours is having to deal with crisis-level need, which we are not geared up to do.”
As demand for the TeenTalk’s counselling service increases, the charity is exploring options for funding, and as well as looking at national bodies for help, they are also looking closer to home.
“One of the clear messages we’re receiving from funding partners is that we need to look at how we can raise more money from within our own community,” explains Jon.
“So if you are doing a sponsored event for a good cause, could you consider raising money for TeenTalk? It is helping young people and it is doing amazing work – but it can only do this long term if we can get support from the community.”
For more information about TeenTalk, visit the website: https://teentalk.org.uk