Thursday, 30 January 2014

Black Cat Project

In July last year I posted about self-harm in Powys, and linked to the blog posts of Black Star on the TOWIP website (The Only Website in Powys) which is where young people in the county get to write about issues important to them. Black Star writes powerfully about child abuse, eating disorders and emotional distress. This week I found out that she is setting up a new project focussing on mental health and young people, and working in conjunction with a nationwide project called Fixers. Appropriately for Black Star it is called the Black Cat project.

Black Star writes: “I have decided to go into the colleges (and hopefully schools too) in Powys to educate young people about mental health, promoting good mental health, help young people recognise the signs of mental health and encourage them to speak up about it.”

It’s great to hear of the new project. We know from calls to our Information Line that there is a real need for more information to be widely available for young people, especially those in severe emotional distress. We signpost people to the Samaritans, Kooth and other support organisations – but how much better would it be if they knew who they could ask for help before things got really bad?

I didn’t know much about The Fixers project, so I checked it out online. It was launched in 2008 by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust. Young people (aged 16 – 25) receive professional support to develop ideas they are passionate about such as issues that have impacted on their own lives. They are helped to set up websites, make videos, or produce promotional material. In return they have to show that they have made a difference to at least one other person.

The social issues which are explored include bullying, child abuse, alcohol and drug use, prejudices and environmental concerns and the videos can be hard-hitting. But they work. They capture the attention, not just of other young people who check out the website, but of wider audiences, as some are featured on the ITV news slot reaching out to over 5 million viewers. In 2012 the award-winning project was expanded across the UK with a grant of £7.2 million from the Big Lottery Fund.

Some “fixers” have gone on to start their own charities and set up websites including Imogen Smith from Bristol, who has produced the Self Harm Organisation website. She says: “while there are support networks out there, a lot of the time young people simply don’t know who to turn to. Self-harming makes you feel very lonely, very isolated, and very different to anybody else. Through a website, I hope to offer support to young people throughout the country who want to seek help to deal with their situation. Also the site will give parents, teachers, and other people advice on how to spot self-harm signs, and how to deal with them.”

So keep your eye out for Fixers on the telly, and Black Star – if you’re reading this, let us know how it goes!

I’ll let Black Star sign off with a question which I found on her Black Cat Project Facebook page (love the emoticon!):

What mental health workshops would you like to participate in? One idea at the moment is a workshop on Psychosis. Any ideas?

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