Youth leaders from the YMCA Northumberland in Ashington are seeing a heightened need from young people aged 14 years plus who are experiencing various mental health issues since coming out of lockdown.
The venue offers a place for them to go without prejudice and helping them avoid negative influences or risky behaviours such as drug and alcohol misuse, or are possibly overcoming forms of abuse and exploitation.
The YMCA, who recently received a £10,000 donation from The Bernicia Foundation, is now calling for better support generally from official funding bodies to help open their doors longer, employ more youth workers, provide new counselling-based activities and continue steering young people away from mistreatment or anti-social behaviour.
Rob Cox, CEO of the YMCA Northumberland, said: “This is a vicious cycle and one that cannot go far enough in terms of providing young people with the very best support at the time they need it most.
"The pressures that are on them generally as teenagers, whether it be at home, from peer groups or online, are immense, and whilst hard for all, the pandemic has only increased that ten-fold.
“These issues are happening now, not in two or three months’ time, and as a local grass-roots venue, our youth workers can make a huge difference to young people’s lives.
“The Bernicia Foundation donation has been a huge blessing and has enabled us to open our doors over longer hours, especially on evenings and weekends when a lot of young people are vulnerable to risky behaviour or targeted in a negative way by others.
“We’re currently seeing approximately 50 teenagers each week, and this is down from 120 pre-lockdown due to social distancing measures.
"However, this, by default, is also creating a dangerous abyss for those young people who no longer come here on a regular basis. Some have the potential to fall through a gap that is now emerging and this is a very real concern.”
One Ashington teenager that has regularly visited YMCA Northumberland over the last few years is Neve Stuart, 15.
As well as having ambitions to become a forensic scientist, Neve would also like to become an active YMCA volunteer short-term.
She said: “The Centre has always provided me with a safe place to go and meet friends, rather than doing nothing other than walking around the local area.
“It’s great for mental health as you’re able to get out and mix with others the same age that totally understand what you’re going through as a teenager.
"This really does help a lot.”
Kevin Haddrick, of The Bernicia Foundation, said: “Rob and the team have forged real positive relationships with many local teenagers, probably thousands over the years from South East Northumberland.
"They have, without doubt, an extremely positive influence on their lives in various different ways.
“The Bernicia Foundation’s donations are awarded to diverse projects up and down the region that are making a significant impact on local people, so we’d encourage other groups, charities or individuals to apply for funds if needed.”
Any local business, entrepreneur or fundraiser wishing to support the YMCA Northumberland should contact Rob Cox, CEO, on 01670 857167 or [email protected]