image of Kate WilsonA new service is set to launch in Bradford, on 26 October, which will enhance mental health support for children and young people, aged under 18, across the district. The new service will provide a homely and welcoming overnight place for vulnerable children and young people to visit in emotional distress or crisis.

Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust has been working in partnership with Creative Support and Bradford Metropolitan District Council to open the new project in the local community. The safer space, accessed through the Trust’s mental health crisis support service – First Response, will play a vital role in identifying crisis triggers early to emotional distress and crisis and preventing future crisis from escalating. Young people in the local area, when they reach out for support, will receive the right help, with kind and compassionate staff to avoid attendance to services like A&E.

The service is available seven days a week, 365 days a year. Young people in crisis, their families and health or care workers can ring, the Care Trust’s First Response service, 01274 221181, for help from trained staff who can carry out a suitability assessment for referral to the new service.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in 10 children and young people are affected by mental health problems. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.

Kate Wilson can’t wait for the safer space to launch; she knows what it’s like to live with mental ill-health. Kate first developed depression at the age of 13 after being bullied at school for being overweight and suffering from chronic fatigue, which left her bedbound for three years. Over a decade later Kate now uses her own experience to help young people overcome mental ill-health through her work with Barnardo’s.

Kate said: “When you’re in such a low mood, severely depressed and want to end your life, having a safer space to go to for a night would have been really helpful. It would have given me the chance to speak to someone else in a different setting.”

Young people, like Kate at 13, have helped to decide how the new service will look and what should be in it. The safer space, accessed through First Response, will provide a homely and welcoming place for young people to go to when distressed and will offer a one night overnight stay from 10 pm to 10 am. Friendly and approachable staff and peer support workers who have personal experience of mental health issues, will be on hand to work with young people to develop their plans to stay well and cope better with distress in the future.

Tom* aged 14, has welcomed the opening of the new safer space, Tom said: “I suffered from depression. I was bullied in school and struggled with coming out. A place like this would have been helpful when my mental health was at its worst. It is a vital service for other young people to have access to.”

Seventeen year old Kirsty* added: “I have struggled with family issues and self-harm. I have stopped self-harming and now need a bit more help with family issues. This service would really help by giving me space on my own, a space to calm down.”

Nineteen year old Gemma* said: “It is time for children and young people’s mental health to be taken seriously and realise our families sometimes just cannot cope with us and the answer can be just a bit of time apart as an alternative to a hospital.”

The pilot programme is the first of its kind for West Yorkshire, with plans in the pipeline to roll out the model of care across the region. Set in a discreet residential area, the safer space will provide a one night overnight stay for up to two to three young people during the pilot phase, with the aim of expanding the service to accommodate up to five young people.

Simon Long, Interim Deputy Director of Mental Health Acute and Community Services at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are delighted to be part of a partnership in Bradford that is transforming mental health services for children and young people. We have listened to what children and young people want and our services have been designed with them in mind. Mental and emotional wellbeing is an essential part of all our health, particular during the early years. Preventing and identifying mental health issues as early as possible is crucial to effective treatment and recovery to support young people with their mental wellbeing.”

The safer space will be running alongside the Care Trust’s First Response service, Haven, a day-time adult mental health service, which is open from 10am-6pm, based at the Cellar Trust in Shipley and the Sanctuary, a night-time adult mental health service, which is open from 6pm-11pm, based at Mind in Bradford.

Providing high quality care, the safer space for children and young people builds on the success of the First Response mental health crisis service, which offers mental health crisis support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Care Trust, council, police and other partners have been national leaders in this area of work as part of the ‘Crisis Care Concordat’ multi agency partnership. It is anticipated that the safer space will further reduce the number of young people presenting at A&E for unnecessary admissions where more appropriate support is available.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.