This guest post is by Anna Kent, Communications Manager at Snow-Camp.
Snow-Camp are the UK’s only charity using a combination of snowsports, life-skills training and mental wellbeing support to help young people from inner-city communities. Working at the indoor snow centres in London, the North West, the Midlands and Scotland, we also provide qualifications, work experience and volunteering opportunities to those who would never normally get the chance to access the snowsports industry. In 2019, HRH Princess Anne awarded us with a Princess Royal Training Award for our life-changing work and in 2020 we were Highly Commended at the National Apprenticeship Awards.
Like most people last year, when Covid hit us in March 2020 we had to pause our programmes and evaluate how we were going to continue supporting our young people. We moved our qualification coursework online and our in-house counsellor developed virtual mental health workshops and offered one-to-one counselling sessions. We also organised fitness classes and our Patrons and Ambassadors ran weekly ‘Be Inspired’ sessions.
However, by September 2020 it was becoming clear that we needed to do more to support our young people’s mental health. We knew that our young people were feeling isolated, lonely and were suffering the effects of no face to face contact. We started working with JHD Counselling Services to provide more one-to-one counselling sessions and worked on a plan to massively scale up our mental health programme to reach many more young people across the country.
Upskilling our teams
With support from the City & Guilds Foundation, we were able to upskill our team. Programme managers enrolled in a Level 2 Counselling Skills course and our youth volunteers and apprentices enrolled in a Level 1 Counselling Skills course and a LEAP Confronting Conflict course. Then, in November 2020, we launched a brand-new mental health service called Stop.Breathe.Think. Now young people across the country can access free virtual one-to-one counselling sessions, a 24/7 text support service and a series of mindfulness tutorials via stopbreathethink.co.uk.
We conducted a nationwide survey which revealed that 4 out of 5 young people are put off seeking mental health support due to wait times, not knowing where to access help or being worried about costs. Stop.Breathe.Think is free and young people can access support in just 24 hours.
Continuing to make a difference
Going forward, the mental health training will play a pivotal role when we return to face-to-face programme delivery. The impact of Covid-19 has serious implications for the mental health of young people. From bereavement to job losses, to loneliness and relationship breakdown, the psychological strains caused by Covid-19 has intensified the need of our work. Over the next 18 months we do not expect the psychological strain on young people’s mental health to ease. The pandemic is not a short-term event, that’s why it’s so important that our programmes team are equipped to provide this support.
‘If I hadn’t got involved with Snow-Camp I would be in a lot of trouble for doing the wrong things with the wrong people. I now have a positive future and a full time job in the snowsports industry.’Youth Volunteer Laquan, speaking about the impact of Snow-Camp
Our long term plan is to provide employment and volunteering opportunities to our young people through Stop.Breathe.Think. Young people who have gained a Level 2 in Counselling Skills will be able to work with our counsellors. And through our snowsports programmes, we know that the peer-to-peer training model works. It provides opportunities for young people to learn together, teach one another and support each other as they face similar challenges. Thanks to the funding from City & Guilds Foundation, we’ll be able to offer this training pathway through Stop.Breathe.Think too.