On 14 September, The Pillar (a mental health initiative for young people held at St Wins Church, Totton) will launch its flagship programme The Space, a weekly after-school drop-in focusing on young people’s wellbeing.
At ‘The Space’, young people will have the opportunity to engage with the NHS 5 Steps to Mental Wellbeing through hobbies, conversation, learning new skills and connecting with other young people and leaders. Each young person will have a dedicated small group and leader so that they can build connections without feeling overwhelmed. All the young people will also have been referred to the service by a local professional.
The Space will be a place where all young people can belong – somewhere they can feel safe, supported and where they can grow in confidence. There are also opportunities for those that wish to explore further questions of faith and meaning through Youth Alpha. The idea is to use evidence-based mental health interventions alongside Christian discipleship resources, delivered by Christians who have relevant experience in mental health. The heart of the project is to offer mental health care in a format “where Jesus is at the heart of the healing,” explained the founder Georgia Hart, former NHS mental health nurse.
The Scale of the Problem
The extent of the challenge that ‘The Pillar’ is responding to is vast: according to The Children’s Society, 1 in 6 children aged 5-16 will have a mental health problem, an increase from 1 in 9 in 2017, with the coronavirus pandemic having a significant impact. However, NHS waiting times for mental health support are longer than ever – in Hampshire families have to wait up to 15 weeks for an initial assessment and 54 weeks for treatment.
Whilst witnessing the incredible work of the NHS for 2 and a half years as a mental health nurse, I became increasingly aware of the sheer lack of staffing and resource, especially for young people’s mental health. This leaves young people and their families struggling without support and most of us will meet these people regularly in our churches.Georgia Hart, The Pillar founder
Pre-Launch Pillar Events
In the build up to the launch of The Space, the team has already been hard at work, including holding a ‘Vision Evening’ to discuss the aims of the project. The evening created space to hear stories of how God is already moving in the project, as well as the opportunity for Q&A, and time in worship and prayer.
At the end of July, the Pillar team also had the opportunity to be part of several panel sessions at Focus Youth (alongside other experts in this area such as Dr Kate Middleton, Revd Will Van Der Hart and Dr Chi-Chi Obuaya from Mind and Soul Foundation, Kate Russell from Girl Got Faith, and Lucy Rae and Iona Ledwidge from Resurgo). The team reached several hundred young people through the sessions, reinforcing their sense that God has great things in store for the project, and that it will be a blessing in the local community.
We believe that ‘The Pillar’ can become the Church of England’s response to the crisis in young people’s mental health. In order for this to happen we aim to work incredibly diligently to ensure that we provide a safe and effective programme that encompasses evidence based interventions and a relationship with Jesus, in a sensitive and non-coercive way.Georgia Hart