New youth mentoring project funded by Maudsley Charity
The Switch Project pairs volunteers with vulnerable young people aged 16 to 18 who are negotiating the often daunting transition to adult mental health services. The volunteer mentors, aged between 21 and 40, spend around two to three hours every fortnight with their young person, or mentee.
Becky Mumford is The Switch Project Co-ordinator.
'Adolescence can be a difficult time for anyone,' she says, 'But many of our young people will also be dealing with problems at school or at home, while living with mental health issues like depression or self-harming.'
'Our volunteers spend one-to-one time with them. They are impartial but supportive and provide a vital listening ear as well as a friendly companion they can go out with – whether it's enjoying a hobby or just having a coffee.'
The service users are referred by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) teams in Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham and Croydon. Becky has made 22 successful matches since The Switch launched last year with support from Maudsley Charity. The results are impressive.
'After spending around nine months on the scheme, the mentees leave with increased self-esteem, confidence and emotional resilience,' she says.
The experience for mentors is just as positive. They reap the rewards of supporting someone who is vulnerable.
'I'm really enjoying it,' says volunteer Hayley Tomkinson. She is helping her mentee with practical career-related things like writing her CV, looking at college courses and filling in application forms.
'I'm also trying to build her social skills — sometimes we'll travel together on the train to visit new places like Covent Garden,' she adds. 'It has certainly helped me develop my own communication skills and patience.'
Becky believes the project's success relies on the special relationship between mentor and mentee. 'What the young people value most is their mentors choosing to spend time with them – it boosts their confidence,' she says.
A female mentee from Lambeth says: 'Now I can get on public transport; I now know what I need to do when I feel panicky. I'm a little more independent, but there's still more to do.’
The Switch is run by TimeBank, a national volunteering charity. For more details visit the TimeBank website, call: 020 3111 0712 or email email@example.com
To make sure projects like this keep running, we need your support. Find out today how you can fundraise for SLaM.