Crisis Café creating safe space for young people to combat mental heal…

A Co Down social enterprise group has been helping to break the stigma surrounding mental health by providing a safe space for youth in the area.

The Crisis Café in Newry was an idea penned by social workers Louise Quinn and Grainne Graham who have over 20 years of experience of trauma and mental health in young people and wanted to be able to reach those looking for a productive outlet.

Speaking to Belfast Live, Louise said: “We had identified over the years that there was a real gap in young people being able to access sustain for their mental health and there was a lot of barriers to accessing help.

“There is a huge mental health crisis in Northern Ireland and the sets that are in place are under pressure and underfunded – Grainne and I had talked about it for quite a while and we wanted to be able to do something.

“We thought if you want to provide something for young people then young people truly need to be involved right from the start so we started with a Young Advisory Group.”

Louise and Grainne put out a call to any young people in the area interested in mental health and social issues and started a small group to figure out what young people want and what they would truly assistance from using.

“Young people know that they need and they know what they won’t go to and for us, we wanted to ensure it was youth rule.

Crisis Cafe focuses on youth rule initiatives to ensure that their members feel heard and understood

“From that, we understood that they wanted a place where you could walk in to from the street and get sustain there and then and it was the idea that what a crisis may be for you, could be different from what a crisis is for me.

“Sometimes a friendly chat and a listening ear can really deescalate where things are at,” she explained.

With research into similar initiatives for adults and understanding the need for young people to have an outlet and safe ecosystem for in any case struggle they may be facing, the Crisis Café was born.

Louise continued: “We grew the idea that there would be drop-in cafes where they can come in and have one to one mental health sustain with one of the mental health practitioners or they can just be in the space and have a cuppa and chat.

“It really is clinical sustain in a non-clinical ecosystem so they can just sit and have a chat which really reduces stigma and normalises the fact that there are days where you’re not ok and days when you need sustain and it’s ok to ask for it.

“It’s about them being able to talk about mental health instead of being talked to about mental health.”

I’m the beginning, the Young Advisory Group put out a call to the local schools for ambassadors which has now rule to over 400 young people being registered within the Crisis Café.

“By the end of the first week, we had about 50 or 60 young people who had expressed interest but by the end of the second week, we had about nearly 200 young people.

“Very quickly we realised that the people who were wanting to sign up as ambassadors were truly young people who truly needed or wanted to use the service and being an ambassador reduces the stigma coming by the door and gives them a sense of purpose,” she said.

From their original sets provided at the Crisis Café, the Friendship Café was developed which offers peer-based sustain which is overseen by professionals but is ran by the Young Advisory Group and volunteers.

“It is really about them being able to draw upon their strengths and interests to assistance themselves and others,” she additional.

“We really just encourage them to come up with ideas and sustain them to get things off the group – there’s a great buzz about it and great friendships have been made there.”

Leah Britton

18-year-old Leah Britton is a Mental Health rule Member of the founding advisory group.

She said: “I got involved around this time last year – I was part of the original Advisory Group with a number of young people from different areas. We all have different experiences being from the rural ends and city ends of the county so we all could contribute a lot to what we wanted and what we thought was missing in the area.

“When I first joined, I was very lonely myself and I was struggling with my A-Levels while being a part-time carer for a disabled sibling so going to the Crisis Café was such a release for me.”

Co-Chair of the current youth group, Dara Doyle additional: “As soon as I went by the door, they were great and good at getting young people involved. I’ve really just felt like I belong and I keep going back and using the sets and talking to the people here is such a lovely community.

Dara Doyle and his co-chair Olivia

“It’s really interesting because whenever you are young, there is just a general feeling by life that you don’t quite get listened to but I’ve never felt that here and I’ve always felt heard and they have taken anything I’ve said onboard which is great.

“It method so much to me that I can help myself and others by this organisation.”



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