Chester MP Chris Matheson has praised the work of a local charity in supporting the growing numbers of children and young people in the area who are struggling with mental health issues.
The MP for City of Chester joined representatives from Platform for Life at Blacon High school to find out more about how the Chester-based charity helps young people and their families cope with the impact of mental ill-health on their health, relationships and life prospects.
Established in 2017, the charity provides children and young people in low-income families, and their parents/carers with a range of free, easy-to-access therapy support within their own communities.
The Platform for Life team receives referrals from schools, GPs, health visitors, social workers and other local organisations across Blacon and Lache.
“There’s an epidemic of poor mental health amongst children and young people locally and across the UK, made worse by the impact of Covid,” commented Platform for Life CEO, Ceri George.
“It’s now estimated that five children and young people in every school classroom are affected. This is almost double the estimate of three people per classroom just five years ago, with many falling through the net of current mental health provision. Since most are unable to afford private therapy, they are denied the support they so desperately need.”
Ceri added: “We recognise that parental trauma and adversity can have a significant impact on children and young people. Our goal is to stop the cycle of poor mental health being passed down from one generation to the next. Through our early intervention, we want to stop poor mental health becoming a life-long disability.”
Chris Matheson praised the commitment of the Platform for Life team and the outcomes being achieved by the charity. “The effects of poor mental health can last a lifetime and often create a spiral of disadvantage. Ceri and her team are providing what can literally be a lifeline to these children and young people and their families.”
Half of Platform for Life’s clients are children and young people and the charity works closely with local primary and high schools, offering therapy sessions in a school environment that pupils are familiar with and which minimises disruption for them. Other local community locations are offered to children and young people who for different reasons, may not be attending school.
The charity has forged a strong relationship with Blacon High School, who recognise Platform for Life as a vital part of their pastoral support to young people. Assistant Headteacher Adrian Carr shared “Education has the potential to transform the lives of young people and communities but for an increasing number, poor mental health means they’re unable to access school fully. Platform for Life has become our main source of support to improve the mental health and wellbeing of our young people, therefore allowing them to access their education more fully and reach their potential. The key to the charity’s success is undoubtedly the flexibility in their provision. They’re also a needs-based service that provides support until all parties feel confident and enabled to move forward. This is so important for our young people and their families.”
Working alongside Blacon High school, the charity is currently piloting an option for young people to refer themselves into the service. As well as giving pupils increased autonomy, it is hoped that the self-referral option will help reach those pupils who are struggling silently with mental health issues without parent, school or GP being aware.
Ceri concluded: “Over the last two years Platform for Life has doubled its capacity to cope with a massive increase in demand for our service and this continues to gather pace. We’re reliant on grants and donations to fund our work and welcome any offers of financial support that will help us continue to make a difference.”