Tue, 19 Feb 2019
A LOCAL charity which gives youngsters the chance to talk about their mental health said expanding into Thatcham has allowed it to help more people than ever before.
Time To Talk West Berkshire launched a pilot of its one-to-one counselling services in the town last year to help cope with demand.
The service initially saw six young people a week, but after expanding last April is now helping around 50 youngsters.
Trustee Georgina Porter said that the expansion into Thatcham has had a massive impact on the charity.
She said: “Our waiting list, we try and aim for eight weeks, but that is stretching beyond to 10 to 12 weeks.
“The hub has allowed us to keep hold of that so it stops being serious.
“Thatcham has been amazing.”
The 50 children in Thatcham made up around 10 per cent of the charity’s referrals last year.
In 2018, it offered 4,000 counselling sessions to around 500 young people.
The average age of children using the service is 14, although Mrs Punter said some as young as 11 were starting to be referred.
Time To Talk exceeded all of its expected statistics for last month, with 52 referrals in January, compared to 39 in January 2018 – a 33.3 per cent increase.
Its previous highest figure was 44, in March 2017.
On top of this, the charity also has the highest number of young people on its waiting list (74), compared with 64 in October 2017.
The charity said that the main issues facing young people ranged from anxiety and self-esteem to depression and family dynamics.
Mrs Punter said: “Society is a different place now.
“The impact of social media on young people, ironically in some respects its quite isolating despite having 500 friends.
“There’s the need for instant gratification, a greater effort on achieving, a lack of self confidence, family dynamics; that’s what children are going through.
“Maybe there’s not always that time to talk.”
The charity added that: “The technological age changes six-monthly.
“The pressure to maintain a persona on social media brings its demands.
“Lives filled with screen time adds to an ever-increasing sedentary lifestyle, parents working hard to provide, but with no time to spare, the increase in more complex home life, pressures to pass exams are but a few of the pressures put on our young.”
Time To Talk has 34 counsellors, most of them volunteers, and the charity is seeking more people to help make a difference to young people’s lives.
It is also looking to appoint a chief executive to manage the running of the charity, along with funds to provide its services.
Feedback from one parent said: “You saw my son a year ago.
“I just wanted to say thank you again and let you know that he is doing really well.
“He has been working really hard to deal with his anxiety and I am pleased to say he is smiling again... with all that he has learnt and knowing that it can get better is a big step forward.”
Mrs Punter said: “It’s the impact on parents, they are really happy.
“It goes beyond the children, it affects people around them.
“Sometimes we forget about the wider reaching impact on society.”
Call Time To Talk West Berkshire on (01635) 760331 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.