The Bridge Youth Project helps young people struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. They received a three-year grant to support their core activities and expand their mentoring services in the face of increasing demand. Director Alex Ewing explains more about their vital work.

“Our sessions are aimed at a ‘forgotten cohort’ of young people who are being left behind because teachers and school support staff who may have picked up on their issues have been diverted to pupils with more serious issues caused by the pandemic.

“Schools have been seeing more cases of self-harm, hopelessness and depression, suicidal thoughts, health related anxiety and complete apathy about the future in these pupils. Many are eventually referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service but because of the demand and the Covid backlog, they have to wait for months to be seen. This means schools are having to concentrate resources on them and other students, who are dealing with comparatively minor, but potentially serious, issues, are being left behind.

“Schools are telling us these students are those who previously never have any problems but are now unable to cope in class, are not engaging with learning and need some space out of the classroom. Among the issues these students face are worries about their future, fractured friendships, problems in school or troubles in their home life. There is the risk that these issues, if not spoken about with someone, can become more complex.

“Our mentoring scheme has been running in South Wiltshire in some form since 2015 but it has come into its own since the pandemic when an increasing amount of young people have been beset by mental health issues.

“Our mentors, who are recruited from the community are trained to help students recognise the root of their issues and find coping strategies over ten weekly sessions. The programme includes pinpointing why students are struggling, finding calming and coping strategies, improving communication and identifying support networks for them in the future.

“Having a mentor isn’t about fixing all your problems, the biggest thing is to know someone is listening to them. In a constantly evolving day-to-day situation, whether it is at home or at school, the young people know that their mentor is going to be there for them no matter what.

“The effect on the young people of having a mentor is palpable. When we bring them from their class to go to the sessions we can see a change in them over the weeks. To begin with they are quiet and withdrawn and look quite sad but we see them become more comfortable in their own skin, smiling and talking more and growing in confidence.

“The fact that they know the mentor comes in just for them makes them feel so valued. You just see them swell with pride.”

Back to our stories