Life became a challenge for Tara* after she was involved in a car accident where her mum was seriously hurt. Already feeling the pressure of studying for her GCSEs, Tara became shy and withdrawn. She wasn’t sleeping and struggled to stay awake in class.
Battersea primary care network (PCN) youth clinic helped Tara start to rebuild her confidence. A pilot social prescribing project – and the first of its kind in south west London – the clinic empowers young people aged 15 to 25 get the support they need from the NHS and community organisations.
Matt Bramwell (pictured above) is one of a team of link workers, from not-for-profit organisation Enable who are part of Battersea PCN youth clinic project. All aged under 30, they step in to help with issues such as loneliness, school and social media pressures, bullying and family difficulties.
The pandemic has meant many young people have missed out on a social life – they may have never been to a party with their school friends.”
Matt explained: “The pandemic has meant many young people have missed out on a social life – they may have never been to a party with their school friends, for example, and as a result, they have lost confidence. Many have missed out on education too.”
The link workers may encourage young people to take part in group or creative activities to build their confidence. They could refer them for counselling or connect them to sources of support in the community, including sports and youth clubs, mentoring, and careers advice.
After three sessions Tara started to relax and open up about her sleep problems and feelings of anxiety. By appointment five, Matt says he could see major improvements to Tara’s self-esteem, and she was sleeping better. “I saw her slowly improving and we arranged counselling to tackle the trauma she had been through. It felt very rewarding to see how the service can make such a quick and positive impact on a young person’s life.”
“We know many young people are facing mental health issues and have not had the confidence to make an appointment with their GP.”
Battersea GP Dr Amy Vowler (pictured third from left with link workers Ruth Olorunnisomo, Olivia Ohiwereh and Sandra Peti) developed the service after witnessing the pressures experienced by young people since the pandemic.
She said: “We know many young people are facing mental health issues and have not had the confidence to make an appointment with their GP.
“Through this new approach we have supported young people who have not contacted their GP for help before. We offer a choice of consultation methods, whether they prefer phone, video or face-to-face appointments.”
Dr Mohan Sekeram, clinical lead for social prescribing in Wandsworth said: “This is the first social prescribing project helping young people in south west London. The approach has seen improvements to the health and wellbeing of the majority of those who took part and enabled us to reach some young people who wouldn’t normally access health services. Our next step will be working with schools to spread the benefits of the programme.”
Matt encouraged young people, who feel under pressure, to contact the service. “Do not hold back,” he said. “This service is for everybody. You don’t have to be in crisis to benefit.”
Anyone aged 15 to 25 can refer themselves to the confidential service if they are registered with one of the Battersea PCN surgeries (Battersea Rise Group Practice, Queenstown Road Surgery, Battersea Fields Practice, Lavender Hill Group Practice & Bridge Lane Group Practice ) via their practice websites.
*Tara is a pseudonym