Dreamscheme: Transforming mental health and building brighter futures for high-risk young people in Belfast

Body image: How we think and feel about ourselves is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness week (13-19 May) and it’s of particular relevance to young people and for the charities working to make a positive difference to their lives.

A wealth of evidence shows that having a negative perception of ourselves can seriously impact mental health and wellbeing and is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy behaviours, such as self-harm, alcohol and drug use.

The Northern Irish charity, Dreamscheme, works with vulnerable young people growing up in South and East Belfast. Youth project participants learn to take responsibility for improving their wellbeing, increasing resilience, developing aspiration and motivation and transforming their lives in many ways, including by changing how they think and feel about themselves and others.

Dreamscheme requested funding from Allchurches Trust towards new IT equipment for youth workers, which will enable them to provide more intensive, one-to-one support for 30 young people at high risk of worsening life outcomes in its four Belfast youth projects, including one that supports a Roma community.

Stephen Mullan, CEO of Dreamscheme, said: “When we asked young people in our community youth groups what they wanted from their youth worker, the most common response was: We want more time with them.

“Our 12-week Hope for Young People programme will provide weekly individual mentoring and group support for 30 high-risk, vulnerable young people, to help them improve their wellbeing, mental health and self-worth; increase their work and life skills; and help them learn to take responsibility for building a positive and healthy life, no matter what their past or present situation. And thanks to this funding from Allchurches Trust, our youth workers will be equipped to help these vulnerable young people more effectively.”

Peter Mojsa, Grants Officer at Allchurches Trust, said: “Dreamscheme’s work is transformational; for the young people who benefit, but also for the communities in which they live. Dreamscheme’s commitment to providing this level of support at this stage in young people’s lives can prevent a continuing cycle of poor life outcomes, poor wellbeing and poor quality of life.”

According to reports from the Prince’s Trust ‘Youth Index 2018’, almost half of young people say they have experienced a mental health problem. Half of young people think that having a job is or would be good their mental wellbeing. Of those young people who are working, 44% say they would struggle to stay positive if they lost their job and 34% say that losing their job would put their mental health at risk.

Referrals to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Northern Ireland have increased by 21% in three years. A quarter of young people in Northern Ireland believe that people in their community do not care about them.

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