The importance of positive mental health

Blog by Leona McDermid, CEO of Aberdeen Foyer

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Last year, The Body Shop wrapped up their latest campaign for End Youth Homelessness, having raised an incredible £141,220 which will enable the launch of a new EYH Health Fund in 2022.

Ahead of the launch of the new fund, we spoke to Leona McDermid, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Foyer, one of the five Member Charities taking part in the pilot. She explains the approach currently used as well as why dedicated support is vital in supporting young people to achieve their potential.

“Mental health, poverty and youth homelessness are inextricably linked. Not having enough money to pay for what you need in life is extremely stressful and living with that constantly can affect your ability to make decisions and make it hard to see a way forward. It can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression and can lead to riskier behaviours and relationship breakdowns, which are the leading cause of youth homelessness.”

“Positive mental health plays a huge part in empowering young people to make progressive decisions in their lives. If someone is not in a good place mentally, it’s hard to see the positives in life, to have self-belief and be hopeful for the future.  At Aberdeen Foyer, our approach seeks to build safe relationships with young people and provide a space for them to think about their future and explore their strengths.”

“It is important to enable young people to feel connected. We spend time building relationships so that young people know that we are in their corner. Through layered conversations we gradually support young people to generate their own sense of belonging and self-worth. We seek opportunities to engage young people in activities, e.g. cooking together, going for walks and playing sports that boost confidence and connections - working side by side.  In isolation these activities may appear insignificant, yet they help build relationships with young people whilst having some fun and inadvertently help build life skills.”

“However, there are times when life can become overwhelming and young people need specialised help.  EYH’s Health Fund will support a youth counsellor, helping us to address increasing demand for mental health support both online and in person, which in turn alleviates pressure on our local NHS and other public services.  This approach can be lifesaving and we hope to see long-term impact thanks to the Health Fund.”

“EYH connects likeminded organisations creating a network who can share ideas, discuss local and national issues and glean a wider understanding of what’s happening and the required improvements or actions.  This is even more important as we navigate some of the complexities relating to mental health and youth homelessness.”

“Aberdeen Foyer and all EYH Member Charities work to nurture young people and help them see their own strengths.  The common theme is that we are all working hard to create and build safe relationships, and this often means multiple interactions to help keep young people engaged. Positive mental health is a hugely important part of this picture, and we’re delighted to be part of EYH’s Health Fund pilot.”

 “On behalf of EYH’s Member Charities, and particularly those of us about to take part in the Health Fund pilot, I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported this latest partnership with The Body Shop. We will use this funding wisely. Our learnings will inform the development of the Health Fund in the long-term and ensure that homeless young people are able to get the support they need in a place they feel comfortable with people they trust. Thank you.”