Feature: Leamington charity is helping girls flourish in face of mental health issues

Helping girls in and around Leamington and Warwick to see their value and worth is one of the main aims of a charity which has drawn attention to the issues it tackles during World Mental Health Day on October 10.

Flourish, based at Jephson’s Court in Leamington, was founded in 2015 by Char Bevan and Kerstin Friend.

The Flourish team of staff and volunteers.

The Flourish team of staff and volunteers.

After years of experience in teaching and youth work it was girls in particular who they noticed were struggling.

Kerstin said: “Issues of self-harm, low mood, anxiety and the way girls see themselves, were common amongst the girls we were meeting.

“We wanted to do something in our community that walks alongside girls - helping them to see their value and worth, empowering them with tools to overcome the issues and pressures they are facing and flourish in their fullest potential.

“We provide one-to-one mentoring programmes and also run group courses.

Youngsters show off their certificates for completing the Flourish Girls Course.

Youngsters show off their certificates for completing the Flourish Girls Course.

“Local schools have opened their doors to us and are delighted to have the extra hands-on support.

“Parents, schools and other agencies can refer girls to us through our website.”

The charity has highlighted “a mental health crisis amongst children and young people” in which more and more of them are reaching out for help but not enough are receiving support.

According to Local Government Association figures, the number of children identified by councils as having mental health problems has risen 54 per cent in four years.

The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Report in 2018 stated that a quarter of girls aged 14 have self-harmed and a recent survey carried out by toiletries company Dove found that seven out of ten girls do not feel good enough.

And the number of young people arriving in A&E with a mental health problem has tripled since 2010.

Despite this, NHS data (shows that currently only one in three children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition receives NHS care or treatment.

According to the Young Minds Manifesto, this means that thousands of young people are being turned away without the vital support they need.

This too often leads to an unnecessary escalation of their needs, and leaves them and their families in a state of crisis.

Kerstin said: “One GP told us that there is a lack of general support if mental health issues are not acute enough.

“They said they were seeing an increase in teenagers, particularly girls, coming into their surgery.

“They said that there isn’t anything else like Flourish around, it is so needed.

“We have seen first-hand how cuts to our local schools, social care and NHS budgets have had a knock-on effect on the wellbeing of young people.

“The rise in referrals Flourish are receiving has demonstrated further the need for this kind of early and timely support.

“We are growing year on year, and now have a team of 25 volunteers from local churches who are passionate about serving the needs in this community.

We have recently taken on two new staff members, bringing our staff team to four.

For more information about Flourish visit www.youcanflourish.co.uk

*** Flourish has said that the surge of mental health issues amongst young people parallels the introduction of the smart phone.

The charity has said: “Phones are brilliant and helpful for so many great reasons, but we have seen how smart phones can intensify already existing issues for girls.

“How girls see themselves, and body image is a good example.

“We also see distressing friendship issues which are no longer left at the school gate – cyber bullying and fallouts can happen around the clock 24/7.

“Ironically, despite the social capacity of phones, we meet a lot of girls who feel isolated and don’t feel they have someone they can talk to about the pressures and challenges they are facing.

“Phones are not the only issue however - we encounter many girls struggling with loss or trauma in their lives.”

According to a report by the national child and young people’s mental health charity Young Minds, 80 per cent of young people say that the pressure to do well at school has had a significant effect on their mental health. ***