Mental health support for Wigan youngsters who are in the Zone

A Wigan organisation has been supporting young people during Mental Health Awareness Week.

At the heart of the borough, Wigan Youth Zone says it is dedicated to combatting this critical issue more than ever.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on all everyone’s lives, but the charity says that for the youth of Wigan it has often been devastating.

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Across the country, more young people than ever are struggling with mental illness.

Senior members enjoying a sessionSenior members enjoying a session
Senior members enjoying a session

According to Young Minds, one in six children aged five to 16 was identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2020, a huge increase from one in nine in 2017.

Improving the health and wellbeing of young people has always been a priority for Wigan Youth Zone.

Bosses say its dedicated youth workers are committed to supporting the emotional health and wellbeing of their members.

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The organisation gives those who need it a physical space in their community outside of school which is crucial to developing relationships and resilience.

Samantha and Amy WrightSamantha and Amy Wright
Samantha and Amy Wright

Research has shown that just by regular attendance at Wigan Youth Zone, 80 per cent of their members feel happier with their lives and 75 per cent identified a reduction in isolation as a result of having a membership. On top of its state-of-the art facilities from a climbing wall and recording studio to a skate park, the Youth Zone also offers a number of initiatives to improve mental illness.

In 2021 the club received funding from Onside Youth Zones and The Oglesby Charitable Trust to understand better and evidence the role that centres like this can play in affecting health outcomes, supporting organisational learning and continual improvement, aiming to work with over 1,000 young people in the borough.

Since receiving the funding, a number of initiatives have been implemented, such as Mental Health First Aider’s training for youth workers and running a range of projects specific to improving mental and nutritional health.

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Senior members working on a positivity projectSenior members working on a positivity project
Senior members working on a positivity project
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“The worries and pressures created by the pandemic have been especially challenging for children and young people.

“The Youth Zone has a number of initiatives that help the young people of Wigan and Leigh to look after their mental health whilst providing a safe space to get support and advice from people they trust.

“Lots of great work is being undertaken across the Youth Zone, helping some of our most vulnerable. We are dedicated to combating social isolation and find ways for young people to connect or interact.

“Learning about health and well-being ensures that our young people develop the knowledge, understanding, and skills which they need for mental, nutritional, emotional, social and physical wellbeing now and in the future.”

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It is estimated that 1.5 million children in England have developed new or worsening mental health issues due to covid.

This was very much the case for 17-year-old Samantha who said that her anxiety had also been worsened by the pandemic to an extreme where she felt too uncomfortable to leave the house.

Gradually, as Samantha engaged in the one-to-one wellbeing sessions provided by Wigan Youth Zone, her confidence has grown and is now able to join in activities and has made new friends.

Samantha said: “Over the last few months, the wellbeing sessions and Youth Zone have helped me so much. I honestly don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have the support that they have given me over the last few weeks and months.

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“They have helped me realise I should definitely start believing in myself more and doing things out of my comfort zone. I have always been such a negative person and it has been a really hard habit to get myself out of.

“Before having this support, I felt lonely and I felt I had nobody I could really turn to, but since having these wellbeing sessions and going to the Youth Zone more, it has definitely helped my anxiety and emotions.

“I do see I have progressed with my anxiety. For example, I would have never have walked into the youth zone on my own without the support but now that I’ve faced one fear it’s time to face others. I definitely feel like I’m being supported now more than I ever been.”

Charlotte Farnworth, a one-to-one wellbeing youth worker who has been into the role since Wigan Youth Zone received the funding, said: “I feel this one-to-one support is integral in a 21st century youth provision.

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“It means we can provide a full range of support and guidance to young people who come through our doors, investing in their emotional wellbeing as well as their physical and mental health.”

In celebration of Children’s Mental Health Week 2022, Wigan Youth Zone has been encouraging young people within the borough to tackle their mental health by taking advantage of the numerous health and well-being activities on offer.

Activities include Bro-gression, a male empowerment session that breaks down male stigmas, and a fitness session in partnership with the Banish App to use fitness as a tool to tackle mental illness.

The Youth Zone also runs a Mentoring service, funded by BBC Children in Need.

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These sessions provide young people with support from an older member of the community, and are a positive role model.

Members of the community have received training from Wigan Youth Zone to become a mentor and can provide long term support with a young person’s emotional and mental health and support with life skills, hobbies and so on.

Wigan Youth Zone has a range of support so any parent or young person struggling with poor mental health can check the website for more information on the Youth Zone’s health and well-being provision.

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