Therapy takes to the streets


All around us services are waking up to the realisation that mental health is an insidious issue hitting deep within our society. From the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police  downwards, people are taking stock of how far we are falling short in care, and what the long-term impact of this will be.

It’s not hard to see why people are paying attention: in our schools, four in every five 12 to 16 year olds report feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. In our prisons, over 90% of the whole population are identified as having one or more psychiatric disorders.

The correlation between violence and mental health is becoming clearer, but nowhere is this link hitting harder than in young people caught up with gangs and youth violence. Across the board services are struggling to cope; in Lambeth alone, only 17% of mental health need is being met.

The people best placed to recognise these problems are not properly equipped. Schools are stretched to capacity, and most teachers do not have the training to identify need or signpost young people to services. Meanwhile youth projects on the estate lack consistency and longevity in building the relationships needed to recognise and support mental health issues in young people.

At CHIPS, we are providing early intervention mental health support to vulnerable people across the community, but in particular to young people. These services are typically seen by young people as untrustworthy and remote, so we are going to be delivering therapy in a street-based, young person-led setting. With clinical experts at MAC-UK our team have been trained to take what works in the clinic onto the streets.

This is where we work best, and where we have been building relationships since 2015. Addressing these underlying factors through informal and consistent attention will have a profound impact on the youth violence we are seeing, and the conflict that has affected this community for so long.