This blog post on the importance of mentoring for children’s mental health has been written by Beth. Beth is a member of our Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG) and a Mentor at, our members, Our Place Support.
I started as part of the Our Place Support Mentoring Scheme as a 2-week work placement for university, 11 years later I’m still here. Like many others who get involved in mentoring I wanted to be the person I wish I had when I was younger. I had struggled for most of my childhood and teen years with mental health issues. Back then mental health was not as talked about as it is today, there was no space or opportunities to say you were struggling. In the times where I did share my struggles, no one listened, my voice lost in a broken system.
Yet still to do this day there are thousands of children and young people who are getting lost in a system of endless referrals and assessments, being told that they don’t meet the criteria for intervention. Both statutory services and third sector organisations trying to navigate these fragile and broken systems whilst on shoestring budgets, trying to provide life changing and in many cases, lifesaving, support for children and young people.
Despite widespread evidence of the importance of prevention, the mental health of children and young people is too often reaching crisis point. We’ve seen this on the mentoring scheme where a decade ago we used to support primary aged children on issues such as friendships, self-esteem and family breakdown, nowadays we support children and young people needing support with anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. However, over the years I have had the privilege to watch the amazing impact that mentoring has had on the mental health and wellbeing of the children and young people that we support.
Mentoring is all about connections. Positive, nurturing relationships where the mentor gently plants the seeds for the mentee’s growth, providing them with the tools and resources to overcome adversities and challenges, empowering them to be who they want to be. It allows children and young people to acknowledge and explore their feelings, encouraging them to make positive connections in the world around them. Mentoring sessions are tailored to the individual child, their needs and their character. And it’s not just the physical sessions that are so important, it’s also all the unwritten and unspoken aspects: the consistency, stability, boundaries, the management of expectations, the building of trust, providing a safe, confidential space and most importantly; validation.
Mentoring has the capacity to change lives, so many children and young people who have accessed our service go on to flourish in their day to day lives as they are given the time and space to be themselves, to not be judged, disciplined or put under pressure. It also allows for the normalisation of conversations around mental health and wellbeing, removing the stigma and barriers that too often prevent children and young people from speaking out.
“I wanted to see you today as I knew I would feel better after speaking to you”.
– Child Mentee
Every child and young person deserves the space and time to have their voices heard, to talk about the things that are impacting them in their lives, to be guided and supported in setting goals and overcoming barriers. Every child deserves to have those positive connections which could ultimately change their lives for the better,
As Brené Brown states:
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
And this is why #MentoringMatters