Young People and self harm
Amber Project – February 2024
Mental health disorders among children and young people aged 7–16 have skyrocketed by 33% since 2017. The situation is even more alarming for individuals aged 17–19, with the number of those suffering from mental health problems more than doubling.* These troubling statistics also reflect a surge in self-harm cases. The need for help has never been so desperate, and that’s where Church Army steps in. The Amber Project, in Cardiff, offers specialist support to young people between 14 and 25 who have experienced self-harm. The Constellation element of the project helps young people between 12 and 25 who are trans, non-binary or exploring their gender identity. Without the specialist help of the Amber Project, young people would continue to suffer, feel unheard, overlooked and misunderstood. The project needs expert staff and Tim Crahart is the new Operations Manager guiding the Amber Project.
I worked for Church Army back in the 1990s at Ty Bronna, when it was called Danescourt House. I’d recently qualified as a teacher and I was a part-time relief worker, doing evening and weekend shifts. One evening shift, we had a young person come to the door. They were homeless, distressed and had nowhere to turn. We helped them find a place to stay and made sure they got there safely, but the events that night changed something in my heart. I knew I wanted to help more young people in that situation and for me, that was the turning point — I realised teaching wasn’t really for me.
Since then, I’ve worked in many different roles, mostly helping young people facing difficult challenges. When the opportunity to work at the Amber Project came up, it really resonated with me. Working with young people is my passion and to be able to help those struggling with issues like gender identity or self-harm within a faith-based organisation is a wonderful opportunity.
We provide person-centred support to vulnerable young people, and we offer a range of support services, including counselling, practical support, music lessons, creative groups and a theatre workshop. A lot of the young people we see have faced traumatic events and a lot of rejection, isolation and loneliness, and some experience a lot of tension in the family home. Some are at risk of losing their lives and suffer abuse. That’s why it’s so important for the Amber Project to be a safe, warm, welcoming place where they can be themselves and access the support they need. Unlike other services, there is no time limit or specific number of support services or sessions a young person can access at Amber. We are here to offer help long term.
The need for our services is increasing as we see more and more young people battle mental health issues. Prior to lockdown, the Amber Project was receiving an average of 200 referrals per year. In 2022, this soared to 264, which has put enormous pressure on our services and on our capacity to offer support. Since I started in support work, I’ve seen much higher levels of anxiety in young people, and the need to access mental health services has increased dramatically. In my experiences through work and as a parent myself, I have seen the extreme amount of pressure on young people today and the challenges they face at home, school and socially. It’s unprecedented, and often they are not given the tools they need to deal with these difficulties.
As well as providing professional help, we want to enable young people to meet others who are facing similar struggles and to make friends in a safe, comfortable environment where they can talk freely and openly and begin to eliminate some of the feelings of rejection and loneliness they so often experience.
It’s incredible to see the difference in some of the young people as they grow in confidence and begin to flourish after beginning their journey with the Amber Project. Often, some will be shy, scared and reluctant to open up for fear of rejection or judgement, which they have so often faced before. However, after a while, with our help, they lower their guard and begin to trust the staff and volunteers, engaging in workshops and activities. As they gradually get to know themselves and make friends, they find their voice and lose the shackles of previous judgment and trauma. Many go on to perform on stage in front of an audience with the theatre workshop. The transformation is magnificent.
“Amber to me is a community where everyone is welcome no matter what. Everyone is friendly and kind. What I’ve gained the most from Amber is confidence, as I joined right after my lowest point in life, when I couldn’t even do mundane things like go outside or go to the shop without feeling uncomfortable. However, after my time at Amber, I am proud to say that I am comfortable in my own skin and can walk outside proudly with my head held high.”
“Amber Project! I honestly think I’d be lost without it. During Covid, my mental health declined rapidly. Even though I had my parents and a few friends, it became harder and harder to deal with my emotions. Thanks to the Amber Project, I’ve been able to get out of my comfort zone and go to extraordinary lengths in life.”