“Off the Record has saved my life time and time again”…. “It has really helped me understand my feelings and I now know that I deserve respect and care” …. “By my sixth week, I felt like a brand new person as I have not been sad, just complete.”
These are just three illuminating comments from young people who have been helped by Off the Record Bristol (OTR), an innovative and forward thinking organisation providing mental health support and information to those aged between 11 and 25 in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
It is also, we are proud to announce, Wards Solicitors’ Charity of the Year after the firm’s 200-plus staff voted ‘mental health’ and ‘children and young people’ as the areas on which they wished to focus their fundraising efforts in 2019.
Tackling a spiraling problem
With a target of £10,000, we hope that by staging a variety of fundraising events – everything from sponsored cycle rides, walks and runs to cake sales and fancy dress days over the coming year – we can help Off the Record (OTR) touch the lives of even more young people.
There is no doubt that there is a national and growing crisis when it comes to the mental health of young people in the UK, as some alarming figures highlight:
Jenny Pierce, Wards Solicitors’ head of Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity, says: “We are delighted to be forging this exciting partnership with Off the Record which does so much meaningful work to not only generate a positive ethos about mental health and give young people a voice but to provide unconditional listening, counselling and specific support to so many. We are looking forward to fundraising for them, and with them, and can’t wait to get started!”
What exactly does OTR do?
Off the Record, which supported 16,000 young people last year alone, is unusual if not unique in the way it operates.
Young people can refer themselves, or simply sign up for services on the OTR website. The charity’s free and confidential programmes are not only for young people but designed and set up by other young people who know exactly what is needed and the best ways to communicate this. These are then delivered by volunteers and professionally trained staff.
A key means of contact and communication is through the OTR Hubs, informal and relaxed drop in sessions in Bristol and Yate run by other young people who are trained as peer navigators.
Here, everyone attending can discuss mental health and self-care and find out about help available for a wide range of mental and emotional health needs including depression, anxiety, self-harming, OCD, abuse, eating disorders, family breakdown and substance abuse.
OTR also provides crisis support and works in partnership with the NHS to help young people referred to its Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, particularly those admitted to the Emergency Departments of local hospitals for self-harm and attempted suicide.
It also works in schools, colleges and youth clubs to promote good mental health including its renowned Resilience Lab project, a stress-busting group workshop which shares guidance on how to deal with life’s ups and downs.
Karen Black, Off the Record’s Chief Executive, says: “We’re delighted that Wards Solicitors have recognised the work we do here at OTR and will be fundraising for us this year. The money Wards Solicitors raises will allow us to continue innovating how we support young people across Bristol and South Gloucestershire. We’re really excited to see what creative fundraising ideas Wards Solicitors come up with and we’ll be with them every step of the way!”