WITH referrals of young people suffering from mental health issues on the rise, the need to provide an outlet for them to deal with their emotions is more important than ever before.

One in 10 youngsters will face depression, anxiety or conduct disorder in their childhood but alarmingly high numbers go through troubling times alone with little or no support.

But for the team at the Swindon 10-18 Project (STEP), providing that little bit of comfort through tailor-made therapeutic interventions gives local children a safe haven to deal with their worries.

The charity, based in Nythe Centre, first opened its doors in 1984 and since then has been a lifeline for Swindon young people in helping them build essential skills and to be able to manage their own lives.

Children are referred to STEP by health, education or social care professionals for targeted/specific work and much of their interventions focus on raising self-esteem, expressing feelings and emotions appropriately, avoiding self-blame and recognising positive qualities and the importance of physical and emotional wellbeing.

In 2015/16 the charity worked with 216 young people through their therapeutic service and provided 254 group sessions, equating to 1,016 hours of support.

In April last year, STEP launched a programme specifically for young people whose emotional wellbeing and mental health is of concern. For example, if young people are socially isolated, having poor self-esteem, displaying a sense of self-loathing, suffering anxiety and/or exhibiting self-harming tendencies which causes a disconnection from family, friends, education and their community. As part of the 14-week intervention programme, the team try to instil relaxation techniques – something that has been given a much-needed financial boost thanks to a £3,700 grant from the Swindon Charity Ball towards a new relaxation room.

Johanna Bryant, project director, said: “We have always got a waiting list for young people and we are seeing more of them being referred than ever before.

“We already have a space for people who have got themselves quite angry to take themselves away but the relaxation room will have mats and relaxation pillows so that young people can put down the block-out blinds and take their mind somewhere else.

“What is nice about our space is that we don’t have to modify it in order to share with others. We can put the young people’s work and pictures on the wall and discuss what they think and how they’ve done that so it gives them a sense of ownership which the relaxation room will add to.

“It is going to see something installed permanently and it is great to be able to have something here that I know will help the children come to grips with their anger and stress issues.

“That in turn will help their parents, carers and really the whole community so the benefits will ripple out.”

Activities at STEP are appropriate to each individual referred and their abilities and interests and all sessions are led by qualified youth workers, supported by adult volunteers and peer mentors.

Sessions include a combination of discussion, games and activities on a variety of themes that help the young people to build resilience, self-regulate their feelings, emotions and behaviour, communicate effectively, work with others and form meaningful relationships.

Johanna, who first started as a volunteer, has been with STEP for 16 years had the honours of picking up the Charity Ball cheque earlier this month.

While the waiting list for the service is booked up for months to come, Johanna knows there are increasingly more youngsters in the town who need support and help with their mental health and hopes if anything, more people become aware that STEP is available in Swindon.

“It is a good thing that we are able to work with young people suffering with multiple mental health issues but we have a waiting list for services until January,” she said. “We try to see as many as we can and we work evenings to try and provide our services at flexible times but sometimes it isn’t enough.

“This money we have received though will enhance the services we provide for children not only this year, but for years to come.”