‘More important than ever’ – the youth project safeguarding young people’s mental health

Teenagers relaxing in the park

Level Two is a comprehensive youth service based in Felixstowe supporting young people in the region - Credit: Level Two

The East of England Co-op's #EastTogether campaign, in partnership with Archant, explores the positive impacts of community action in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Project manager Shez Hopkins explains how the Level Two youth service in Felixstowe promotes the wellbeing of young people at a critical moment. 

The mental health of young people is facing an epidemic of its own – with one in six (16.0pc) children aged five to 16 years identified as having a probable mental disorder, according to government data published in October. With NHS services overburdened, community organisations and local charities are confronting the problem at a grassroots level. 

Established in 2001, Level Two started as a small youth club on the seafront in Felixstowe. Over the years it has evolved into a comprehensive youth project offering a variety of essential services to promote the welfare of young people in the region.  

Youth worker in front of bus

Project manager Shez Hopkins emphasises the importance of ensuring young people are as well-resourced as possible to manage their own challenges - Credit: Archant

“The service we provide is more important than ever,” says project manager Shez Hopkins. “The mental health of children and young people has taken a real hammering and the ripples out on families are huge.” 

The psychosocial effects of Covid-19 disproportionately affect the young, as routines, structures and relationships are interrupted at a critical moment of self-development, while access to therapeutic services is limited.  

“It is so important to ensure young people are as well-resourced as possible to manage their own challenges,” Shez says. “This means that they do not put stress on statutory services which are really hard to access at the moment.” 

Level Two’s primary services are mentoring and counselling, though the project offers support in a number of ways, providing supportive relationships and positive experiences designed to enhance the personal and social development of young people in Felixstowe. 

Mentoring takes the form of one-on-one time with a youth worker in which young people can share their worries and concerns, while exploring any issues they are currently facing. “Our mentoring is there as a support service across all levels – from someone not feeling very good about themselves to serious mental health conditions,” Shez explains. “We want to intervene early as a preventative measure.  

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“Mentoring can happen while going for a walk, baking a cake, making art, playing pool – but it can also be sitting and having a conversation. It can really help a young person unpack and offload how they are feeling.”  

Counselling, on the other hand, is a listening therapy – a service that Level Two is reinforcing by employing another counsellor and student counsellor just to meet current need. When the pandemic hit, Shez and her team invested in technological infrastructure to provide counselling services remotely. The Youth Hub in the town centre was closed until the beginning of October, and while it opened for a short time for counselling and mentoring sessions, the November lockdown meant it has closed again.  

“We are being as creative as we can with remote services such as WhatsApp group chats and Zoom sessions with quizzes, games, activities and discussions that young people can interact with.” 

Level Two is also the only sexual health service provider in Felixstowe. “We work with Terrence Higgins Trust to provide free condoms, chlamydia screenings and information on sex and relationships,” Shez explains. “And we host a weekly drop-in session at Felixstowe Academy.” 

The project has developed positive working relationships with local education facilities and has dedicated youth workers in all eight schools in Felixstowe. Level Two also has two minibuses – one for transporting young people to events and another bespoke youth bus with sofas, flat screen TV, PlayStation and refrigerator.  

Youth service minibus in a park

Level Two's bespoke youth bus offers a space for young people to relax with sofas, flat screen TV, PlayStation and refrigerator - Credit: Archant

Earlier in the year, Shez applied to the East of England Co-op's Community Cares Fund to help pay for mentoring and counselling resources. The money was used to purchase therapeutic play equipment and visual aids. 

“We don’t get any statutory funding – we are entirely funded by grants and donations,” Shez explains. “We’re not parents, we’re not teachers, we’re not police – we’re just a trusted consistent service available without charge for young people and their families. 

“One of the most important things the general public can do for us is to make sure everyone knows who we are, what we do and how to access our services. But if you would like to make a donation, please get in touch on Facebook or via the website.” 

For more information please visit www.leveltwo.org or contact 07724356723. 

Watch more episodes from the #EastTogether series at www.eastofengland.coop/easttogether

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