For Mental Health Awareness Week, we caught up with Alexander,* a young person who participated in the Brandon Connect programme with Geoffrey Baruch, Highly Specialist Project Clinician. Brandon Connect is a service funded by Islington Giving and Arsenal Foundation. It provides outreach and therapeutic support to 16- to 25-year-olds living in Islington, who have emotional and mental health difficulties that are a barrier to their education, employment, or training.
How has participating in Brandon Connect supported your mental health?
“It helped me build more confidence in myself, along the lines of changing my mental attitude into being more positive. Before I was more pessimistic, glass half empty, it helped feel more optimistic about things generally. For example, it was a big help when I had to move schools in adapting to the new school.”
“Therapy changed the way I think about most things, being able to talk has helped me not to get stuck on hopeless thoughts.” ~ Alexander, Brandon Connect participant
Could you describe a situation where you felt anxious before joining the programme, and how Brandon Connect helped you overcome or manage that anxiety?
“I was afraid when I had to move schools of being in a completely different environment where I knew no one. I want to stress that the change of school was an enforced change, and not one I had wanted. Just being able to talk to a therapist about the move, getting affirmation that how I felt was normal and being reassured that it would work out was incredibly helpful and supportive. I don’t know whether I could have done it without the help of the weekly sessions.”
How do you think Brandon Connect contributes to improving mental health outcomes for young people?
“Therapy changed the way I think about most things, being able to talk has helped me not to get stuck on hopeless thoughts, to keep myself going, without the help I would have dug myself into a hole. Most likely I would have stopped studying and would have withdrawn from friends and having any social life.”
“It helps having someone experienced, independent and unbiased give you advice and understanding and a second perspective.” ~ Alexander, Brandon Connect participant
How has participating in Brandon Connect inspired you to take steps towards addressing your mental health and/or anxiety outside of the programme?
“I have been able to dedicate myself to my studies, it helped me be more organised and motivated me to keep on studying when I could easily have given up and jeopardised my chances of going to university and the degree I want to do.”
What can other young people struggling with anxiety expect by joining the Brandon Connect programme? What advice would you give them?
“They [other young people] can generally expect that their mental health problems will improve by having access to an experienced professional who they are able to speak confidentially to about their problems and whatever is stressing them. It helps having someone experienced, independent and unbiased give you advice and understanding and a second perspective.”