Tuesday, 25 October 2016

YAPS - Sharing the Voice

The Young Adult Peer Support Project, delivered by the mental health charity Ponthafren Association, recently received a welcome opportunity to help spread the word about its vital work. The YAPS project offers peer support mentoring to young people (16-25 years old) who experience mental health issues, by helping to give them a voice of their own in the development of services. You can watch a YAPS project video, and also find out about the amazing game which the young people devised where players try to access mental health services as if in the real world and experiencing mental distress. The team from YAPS tell us more:

Robin Green, YAPS Project
We were fortunate enough to be given a six month extension on the YAPS project with the aim of spreading the feedback we have received from those we have worked with over the last 3 years. In the time leading to the end of the YAPS project we have been focusing, and will continue to focus, on tackling the more sizable and historically challenging issues we have been told about while working with young people: namely that of respect and communication. To address these concerns we have been feeding back to the service providers in the form of presentations and workshops which will be followed by more in the coming weeks and months. The aim is to educate and inform the service providers on the needs and concerns of the vulnerable people the YAPS project has come into contact with. 

Most issues reported to us that are not those of individual circumstance focus on the amount of respect, empathy, and understanding (or lack thereof) that people feel they get from services or the individuals within them. This often comes down to either poor ability to listen to or understand the individual in question, an inability to encourage and support an individual who may struggle to voice their concerns themselves, and/or a restriction on the amount of time any individual can get to explain themselves effectively. More often than not it is a combination of any or all of the above. Our hope is by sharing with other organisations what we have learned from young people’s experiences, we can disseminate their voice out into the community to help change the way services operate and to help make them more accommodating to those vulnerable people who need additional support. 

To try and tackle these seemingly common instances, we hope to speak with as many service providers as possible about the importance of truly listening and giving time to someone who needs it, even if it’s only five minutes extra. We have so far delivered what we’ve learnt to over 120 individuals representing more than 15 organisations and we remind service providers that “...when a young person comes for help, they are often scared: you might know what’s going to happen next, but they don’t.” In response, young people have suggested slightly longer meetings, more invitation for the young person to control the conversation, or a box on a form to tell the organisation in advance of any anxiety or depression that might get in the way of the discussion. Depending on the service being provided, resolutions to these problems may vary but we invite service providers to explore the possibilities. 

The feedback we have received so far from the events we have attended has all been very positive. Several people have come forward to say what we have spoken about has really resonated with them on a personal level and others have enquired about how we can support their organisations further in the future so they can support their own communities more effectively. While for others we were able to offer a perspective perhaps service providers often forget: as one person wrote on twitter, “The YAPS game provides a fascinating insight into the experience of young people needing mental health support.” 

One young person once told us that: “It’s sad that sometimes it’s the services we use that make us feel bad for accessing them.” None of the young people we have met have ever seemed to display any sense of entitlement for a service; instead they often feel scared, embarrassed, or guilty for accessing certain services and this should never be the case when someone needs help. We aim to see several more important service providers before the end of our project to try to reduce the number of young people who feel devalued and not welcome in their search for the help they deserve.

The Young Adult Peer Support (YAPS) project is one of the One Powys - Connecting Voices projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund. You can find out more about these projects by contacting Barbara Perkins, tel: 01597 822191 or email: barbara.perkins@pavo.org.uk

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