YMCA Dialogue launch e-wellbeing service for children and young people

YMCA DownsLink Group e-wellbeing service

We’re delighted to announce the launch of a new online service, www.e-wellbeing.co.uk  from our counselling team (YMCA Dialogue) that supports young people with their wellbeing and mental health. e-wellbeing has been in development for a year and was due to launch in six months. However, increased pressure on young people’s mental health, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, has meant that the development team at YMCA Dialogue have worked around the clock over the last six weeks to get the project live. Funding has been provided by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, alongside support from the NHS Sustainability & Transformation Plan, to bring forward the launch date and ensure young people across Sussex can get the help they need.

At launch, e-wellbeing will be an accessible guide to the mental health services available to young people in Sussex and Surrey. However, interactive content will be added over the next few months to enhance the user experience and a marketing campaign will target young people. Young people have also been involved in developing and testing the service it at each stage of development.

Cat Pritchard, our Wellbeing and Therapeutic Services Manager & Digital Lead, has been heading up the project. She explains how the new service will work and why it is different to other ‘wellbeing’ websites:

“Mental health systems and pathways are often complicated and many young people, parents & carers, and professionals remark that they are difficult to navigate. This website works to simplify the process of accessing the right help, in the right place, at the right time.

Local services have worked incredibly hard to adapt their offers so they can continue to meet the needs of young people remotely. Now, more than ever, it’s so important that young people know there is support available to them and that there are lots of different ways they can help themselves and their peers.

e-wellbeing is different to other websites, in that it poses a series of questions to help guide young people to the appropriate content. It provides young people with self-help guidance and information about different aspects of mental health difficulties and supports them to make the decision about whether they may need help from a professional service. Crucially, they will then be connected with information about services in their local area.”

Commenting on the launch of the new website, Dr Rick Fraser, Chief Medical Officer at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which provides specialist mental health services to people of all ages in Sussex said:

“We are living in a time of unprecedented change around COVID-19, a time when just about every part of our lives seem very different to how they were only a few weeks ago and a time when our usual sources of support, communication and connecting may not be there. For young people this can lead to feeling isolated, frightened and stressed which can lead to mental ill health problems. What I like about the digital platform for young people is that it provides a virtual place for young people to access good quality information, support and link with others in a way that is safe and managed. This is an innovation that works in COVID-19 times but should also work well in times beyond. I look forward to seeing how this develops.”

Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSS AHSN) have also been working with YMCA DownsLink Group on a number of activities to speed up the introduction of the new service, including identifying funding opportunities and potential partners. Commenting on the initiative Des Holden, KSS AHSN’s Medical Director, said:

“Wellbeing is not just about physical health, it is about mental and social health as well. To bring the information needed by children and young people, their families and other supports in their life together, in one place, accessed through one front door is a great step forward.

I’m very proud that, when so much focus is on dealing with a viral pandemic, organisations are coming together to offer something better for the health of young people. At KSS AHSN we’re delighted to have been able to play our part in this project locally, and we are championing the initiative nationally. Long may innovation in young peoples’ health continue.”

It is expected that e-wellbeing will have a range of impacts, including supporting more young people to develop skills to improve their mental health or maintain positive mental health, whist providing faster access to the right service for children and young people. It should also ensure higher rates of appropriate referrals to existing mental health services, and, in doing, should reduce pressure on frontline services, including GP surgeries and A&E.

e-wellbeing has been a project that has come out of years of experience by the YMCA Dialogue team in running counselling services for children, young people and families. YMCA Dialogue is the largest provider of school counselling in Brighton & Hove, and, in 2019, it provided therapeutic services to over 3,500 people in schools and communities across Sussex and Surrey. e-wellbeing will extend the reach of their service and enable more children and young people to access mental health advice, support and professional services using digital solutions.

Behind the scenes, YMCA Dialogue, have been working very closely with web development company Boz Boz to create the e-wellbeing service. Boz Boz have been committed to delivering this service ahead of schedule to ensure children and young people can access the help they need during this uncertain time and have been valuable partners in the project.

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