Mental health ‘nest’ of support for young people opens its virtual doors


Southwark Council announced in January this year that it intended to open a young people’s mental health ‘hub’ at a location in Peckham. This was to be a drop-in centre for young people aged 13 and upwards in an environment that felt welcoming to them, when they felt they needed extra support for their mental health and wellbeing.

Since then, of course, huge changes have happened and social distancing has meant that what will now be called ‘The Nest’, has had to evolve into an online and phone-line support service for the time being, before the council is able to fully realise its ambition for a face-to-face support service. This is a landmark service which is one of the key components of the council’s commitment to support 100% of children and young people with a diagnosable mental health need.

Councillor Jasmine Ali, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Adult Social Care, said: “During this time of great stress and disruption, we must forge ahead with our efforts to support young people with mental health problems, which are hugely exacerbated by the current health crisis. While we can’t open a physical building as promised this week, we can keep up the momentum and ensure that young people have all the support they need. When the ‘lockdown’ restrictions are lifted and the doors are open, we fully intend to expand the service to support all children and young people under the age of 25. Good mental health is as important as good physical health and children need to get support with their emotional or mental wellbeing when they need it, on demand, without waiting for a referral.”

From this week, young people will be able to ring a dedicated number to speak to someone, have a video call, or use an online chat service to connect to experts in mental health. Other online resources will help young people to take the first steps to feeling better or getting further help if they need it.

The new service will be run in partnership with Groundwork London, which was awarded the contract following a competitive process in January. Groundwork London has over fifteen years experience in supporting disadvantaged children and young people in Southwark. Its members of staff have skills and specialisms in mental health to ensure they are equipped to meet the needs of those accessing the service.

Graham Parry, Director of Youth, Employment and Skills at Groundwork London, said:

All Southwark’s young people deserve safe spaces in real life and on-line where they can talk about their mental health and well-being with people who can really help. Groundwork are excited to be launching The Nest on behalf of Southwark Council, a service that has been designed with young people to offer mental health support in the way they have told us they want it.

Councillor Ali continued: “Before lockdown, young people were already suffering in terms of their mental wellbeing, with the pressures of exams, having to care for others, the pressure of social media. And now, when they are missing their friends and social freedom , or maybe feeling that all their hard work for their GCSEs will need catching up on, they will need this more than ever.

“It was never good enough to say we will only treat some of the children who need mental health services, we want to go further. Prevention and early intervention is key to prevent mental health deterioration. Every child who needs support should receive it, and that’s what we aim to do, working closely, with our health, education and voluntary sector colleagues.”