18 Oct 2023  |  Alex Mahoney

October 10th was World Mental Health Day. It is a day to raise awareness about mental health and encourage people to talk openly about how they feel.

So I grabbed the opportunity to learn more about what ESTEEM does to offer support around wellbeing and mental health, and sat down to have a chat with our very own Wellbeing manager, Mona Sorensen to learn more. 

Alex – What barriers affect young adults’ mental health?

Mona – Mental health, just like physical health, is something we all have, and something that we need to look after, maintain and intentionally work on so that our wellbeing can improve. It is normal for our wellbeing to fluctuate as life experiences and events affect these, whether this is physical injury or challenges or emotional/ psychological. COVID affected both our physical and mental wellbeing, and we have since then seen a real rise in issues affecting young people,  especially issues such as anxiety, depression and self-harm.

There are a lot of barriers that still exist to accessing mental health support, one of the biggest barriers being how we talk about mental health in our society. Although we have seen a lot more attempts to talk openly about mental health e.g. “itsokaynottobeokay” and are seeing more open conversations about it from celebrities or sports persons – we still have a long way to go. Sometimes the biggest barrier for a young person is simply not knowing how to communicate the issue or how to identify what is going on and what they can do about it. This makes it harder to reach out for help.  

Access requirements and financial difficulties can also make it harder to access wellbeing support. A lot of the free support services have very long waiting lists, so you can’t get the help even though you need it. Whereas if you have money, you can probably find a therapist quickly and easily. ESTEEM aims to take away some of these barriers, by offering free wellbeing and counselling support. We also currently don’t have huge waiting lists to contend with, which is something we would like to try and maintain as we feel it’s really important to get the support when you need it the most. We are however not a crisis service.

Mona, ESTEEM's Wellbeing Manager

Alex – What does wellbeing support at ESTEEM look like?

Mona – The beautiful thing about working at ESTEEM is that everything we do is linked to improving your ‘wellbeing’. Whether you are accessing  mentoring, volunteering on a project or part of the volunteer team, engaging in social activities, or even just coming in for a cuppa and a chat – all of these activities have been shown to improve well being. ESTEEM’s ethos is about giving young adults time and space where they can feel that they  really matter. Mattering and being valued goes a long way towards positive mental health and self-belief.

The specific wellbeing support that we offer is counselling and 1-1 wellbeing sessions that take place either in our confidential counselling room or as walk & talk sessions outdoors.

The wellbeing support & walk & talk sessions are offered by either the wellbeing youth projects worker Sophie Foley or myself and are not therapeutic sessions. It is short term support, aimed at helping a young adult with a specific issue or goal over the course of 2-6 weeks. The reason we offer the wellbeing support in the form of a walk & talk is that some young adults may find sitting still in a room a little bit overwhelming and prefer some movement, and perhaps not sitting directly opposite someone and talking about difficult things. Walking side by side with someone feels more natural and the conversation usually flows much easier this way. 

We also offer wellbeing activities – which are specific programs designed  by myself and Sophie, aimed at building confidence, resilience, and teaching various tools and techniques to help young adults cope better with stress and anxiety. Our approach is about empowering young adults to become aware of their own wellbeing and to gain the knowledge and experience in knowing what they can do about it if life gets challenging. 

An example of this was the Beach Box Sauna sessions we ran last winter. We are running these again this winter starting in November, make sure to contact me or Sophie if you are interested.

We offer lots of choices like this to make sure that we have something for everyone and that young adults have a lot of activities to choose from, as everyone is unique and different.

Card reading "I am confident".

Alex – How can young adults access support at ESTEEM?

Mona – Come and have a chat to me or Sophie! We are very friendly and approachable and will always have time for you – even if you just want to ask a few questions. 

You can also speak to anyone at ESTEEM about accessing support, whether a youth worker or even someone at reception. You will then fill out a wellbeing referral form. 

Or you can contact myself or Sophie directly via email, phone or text.

Our first meeting can be face-to-face, online or over the phone. We go through some of the support options that we have on offer in a bit more detail. The options we consider include a referral to our counselling team, agreeing to some wellbeing sessions, or starting one of our wellbeing courses/ activities – for example, our upcoming Alpaca walk, which can be great for building confidence and also really good for young adults who may suffer with anxiety.

Alex – How does the wellbeing team collect feedback?

Mona – We think it’s really important to collect feedback from young adults who receive any kind of wellbeing support from us as we always want to know whether we are getting it right or not. We do this in a variety of ways, to ensure that young adults have different opportunities to give this feedback.

The wellbeing team will be starting a new participation project where we involve young adults in a broad review and development of the wellbeing project—thinking about how our wellbeing support is perceived and what can be made better. That work is really essential to the wellbeing project and we are excited to make a start on this. If you are a young adult and would like to get involved with this please get in touch.

Alex – Is there anything else you’d like to share about wellbeing support at ESTEEM?

Mona – We are just about to release our winter program so please keep your eye out on the  fun activities calendar on our website.

We also have spaces for wellbeing sessions or walk & talks – so if you are struggling with something and you’re not too sure what to do – then we are here to help guide you through this.

Counselling is another great service that we can offer for free and something that we currently don’t have a massive waiting list for. 

Last but not least – don’t forget that you have to look after your mental health just like your physical health and that is something that takes daily practice. It’s important to look at our whole lifestyle, which includes some really basic activities that we may take for granted such as sleep, what we eat, what activities we do during the day and even how much time we spend on our mobile phones!

In the wellbeing team we are here to help with all of the above – so If you’re reading this and know a young adult who would benefit, please fill out our sign-up form, and one of our youth workers will be in touch to discuss next steps.