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HeadStart changed my life

19 July 2016

By Taylor Morrison-Eaves

Throughout the country emotional health and wellbeing within young people is becoming a focus. This is because, compared to five years ago, the statistics show a frightening rise in self-harm, depression, and anxiety with a 50 per cent rise in self-harm admissions for under-18’s.*

In 2014/15 in the Blackpool area, 175 10-16 year olds were admitted to hospital because they self-harmed and/or self-poisoned. This is triple the national average.

This means a lot more services are being put in place to support young people, but it isn’t fixing the problem. A lot, not all, services are looking for a quick fix, a plaster, to put over the issues and hope they go away. What is needed is early intervention, support before the problems occur, measures put in place to ensure everyone knows how to handle the majority of challenges they may face throughout their lives.

I have been battling depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and in May 2012 I became the worst I had been. I was primarily being supported by my high school counsellor, but when this low-level support didn’t seem to work, I began seeking other services.

I was referred to weekly counselling. Soon into this I realised it wasn’t working because as soon as I had created a bond with my counsellor they left, and I had to start from square one. After being through several counsellors and services, I felt that nothing was helping, I still felt lost, I was still self-harming and ultimately I felt like there was no point in living. I was then diagnosed with Adolescent Psychosis, this meant that while I had symptoms that suggested Schizophrenia I was too young to be officially diagnosed. I was placed onto medication called Quetiapine, and it took me a while to learn how to say and spell it!

In June 2012 I took a substantial overdose of my Quetiapine and Co-codamol, and because of that I was referred to the Early Intervention Service.

A lot more happened after that: I was in an inpatient unit; I had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT sessions, I was given Sertraline, an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug, and I still self-harmed.

In January 2014, I began to feel better, so much so that my youth worker asked if I wanted to go to a workshop. I didn’t really know much about it but I said yes. Little did I know that a project called HeadStart would change my life.

HeadStart is a project funded by the Big Lottery Fund to help support young people, aged between 10 and 16 years old with their emotional health and wellbeing, and to build their resilience. As of this moment, we have been through a lot. We’ve bid for money, started our pilot projects, travelled to many places in England and even been to Canada; worked with amazing people who have taught us so much, and now, we’ve been awarded £10 million to begin the five-year project in Blackpool.

Now that we have the money we can officially begin our project, focusing on four areas; online, family, community and school. I would say my favourite thing we are doing is the universal whole-town approach. This means that we can support every single 10 to 16-year-old in the whole of Blackpool. This is so important because Blackpool has a lot of transience issues, with families moving around and out of Blackpool.

While it is an ambitious dream, it is possible. Blackpool has seven mainstream secondary schools, 34 primary schools, three special educational needs schools and one pupil referral unit (PRU). Granted our PRU is the largest in England, but it is possible to build the resilience and support every single 10 to 16-year-old in Blackpool.

In five years’ time, I hope that HeadStart is still here, and I hope it is still supporting every 10 to 16-year-old and the biggest thing I hope is that it isn’t seen as just another project, I want it to be the way Blackpool is.

As I mentioned earlier, right now we need services that are helping young people face the challenges in their lives, whether it is self-harm or low self-esteem, or concerns about sexuality, gender, religion or whatever it is.

However I hope that one day these services aren’t needed at all. I hope everyone, regardless of their background is resilient and can face whatever life throws at them. I know that seems impossible but anything is possible, it just takes someone to get the ball rolling.

If you, or someone you know is struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or dreads going home, or prefers to stay inside then the best thing I can suggest is to talk to someone, whether it’s a teacher, your parents, a youth worker, a social worker, a friend. Talk to them, let them know what you’re feeling, because I know from experience that bottling your emotions up isn’t healthy.

Taylor Morrison-Eaves is 18-years-old and was involved in the pilot phase and development of HeadStart Blackpool.

Six areas in the UK, including Blackpool, will receive almost £54 million to improve the mental well-being of at-risk young people, aged between 10 and 16, through early intervention and a local approach that partners teachers, GPs, charities, health commissioners and local authorities. Find out more about the funding

*On average, three children in every classroom have a clinically diagnosable mental health condition, 90 per cent of head teachers have reported an increase in such problems over the last five years and hospital admissions for self-harm among the under-18s are up 50 per cent. IPPR, May 2016

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