Mental health course aimed at young people launched

A CHANCE remark by a 20-year-old led to the development of Wales’ first self-management course for young people with mental health problems.

Lily Horley spoke of the need for a course specifically aimed at younger people after attending one with people twice her age.

The first young people’s course will be launched in Cardiff at the end of the month and rolled out across Wales in the autumn.

Run by the Mental Health Foundation, the courses have been developed and are delivered by people who have had a psychiatric diagnosis and are designed to help those with a long-term mental health problem take control of their own symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Lily, who lives in Cardiff, first started receiving treatment for depression when she was 18. She is currently taking mood stabilisers and anti-psychotic medicines although she has not had a formal diagnosis.

Her health problems forced her to drop out of college and she became homeless. She learned about the adult courses while staying at a hostel.

“Nothing had helped until then and I decided to give it a go,” Lily said. “Everyone else on the course was much older than me. I remember asking at the end why there was nothing like this for younger people.

“I asked the boss of the course if I were to get 20 people of my age from Cardiff whether they’d put on a course.

“If people were able to get on a course not long after they were diagnosed, then they wouldn’t have a decade of going through hell.”

Lily said she learned how to recognise and manage her symptoms while on the course.

“I was getting angry and found that I was suffering from a lot of different fears, but I’m now able to recognise them as a symptom of my illness.

“Instead of being scared of something, I now know it as a symptom and something I can get over.

“Just being in the same room as other people who were so open was fantastic – I learned so much just by talking to other people during the breaks.”

It is estimated 500,000 people in Wales – around a sixth of the population – have been diagnosed with a mental health problem, such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Jane Wycherley, self-management project manager at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “The Mental Health Foundation’s self-management project has already successfully run more than 40 adults’ courses throughout Wales and more than 400 people have benefited from the programme, learning the skills to take control of their own illnesses.

“We’re delighted to be extending our self-management courses to young people.

“While addressing mental health problems prevalent in the adult population, we must also concentrate our efforts on improving the mental health of young people to prevent the worsening of their mental health problems further down the line – the earlier they get to grip with self-management techniques, the earlier they can learn to understand and manage their condition and improve their quality of life.

“For young people, growing up with a severe mental health condition, it’s easy to be overprotected by your family and not get the chance to make your own mistakes and learn from them.

“The problem-solving and goal-setting skills taught in the course will help fill that gap and help these young people get the support they need to get the life they want.”

The courses have been funded by the Big Lottery Cymru and are run over two days, followed by six half-day sessions over the course of two months. Participants can then become part of a peer-support group, sharing and solving problems together, socialising and practising self-management skills.

The first young people’s course, for people aged 18 to 30, will be held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on August 24 and 25. Subsequent courses will be held at the Ramada Jarvis in Wrexham on October 3 and 4 and in Aberystwyth at the end of October.

All courses are free to attend and travel costs are paid.

Anyone eligible and wishing to attend should contact Jane Wycherley on 01633 415 434 or email [email protected]