The Mental Health Crisis Facing Our Teens

and how Church Army’s Amber Project is meeting the need

Our young people are facing a mental health crisis.

Under 16-year-olds are now significantly more likely to need help for their mental health than five years ago, and those seeking help aged 17-19 has doubled*.

Church Army’s Amber Project supporting those aged between 14-25 in Cardiff, has been operating for 21 years saving and significantly improving young people’s lives through 1-1 counselling, weekly activities, and access to a 1-1 support worker.

We caught up with Christina Witney, full-time support worker for those aged 18-25:

“People present in crisis at the door.

Our referrals come in from CAMHS, SARC, even Crisis support in A&E, as well as self-referrals, but currently we’ve had to close referrals because we’ve been inundated. We provide person-centred support to vulnerable young people. These are young people at risk of losing their life, of abuse, of their world deteriorating significantly but at Amber we aim to provide them with what they need, for as long as they need it.

I strongly believe Amber is the gold standard in what we do. Sometimes, in other projects, they are only able to offer six to eight 1-1 sessions and that’s it. But at Amber, we’re able to offer clients the longer term help they need. I’ve been working with one young lady for nearly two years now, and it’s been amazing to see the improvements she’s made; from a place where I wasn’t sure she’d be here tomorrow, to now, having a job and making plans for her future.

We need to provide the long-term support people need to live happy lives so our message is not one of abandonment, but hope.”

One of our core values is that everything we do is unconditional, believing that God loves everyone, and that every person is significant in His eyes. And so, we serve anyone regardless of their age, gender, race, sexuality, faith, ability, status, or circumstances.

Meet Maisy*

I honestly think I’d be lost without the Amber project. During COVID my mental health declined rapidly, and my previous counselling service was supposed to continue online but after four sessions it stopped completely. I had nowhere to turn to.

I felt hurt, judged for being emotional and distant, and it became harder and harder to deal with my feelings. A friend introduced me to Amber and said it’s a group run by Church Army, and that they openly support the LGBTQIA+ community. As soon as I heard this, I had to try it out. It was the aftermath of COVID, so things were still online. I attended one of the calls, not expecting much, but as soon as I did, things became better.

The place where Amber is held belongs to a church. The church to me, feels like the opposite of this building. I instantly felt welcome and accepted. I’ve made such wonderful friends and I’ve found a new lease of life. Amber has encouraged me to get out into the world again. It’s given me a chance to be myself and to live life confidently.

*Maisy is a real teenager but her name and image have been anonymised.

How a Fiver can save a life

Even last week someone texted the Amber project in crisis; they’d escaped a situation at home and didn’t know where to go and ended up wandering in the city centre. £4.40 covered their bus fare to the project.

*UK Parliament Report, July 2023 – Progress in improving NHS mental health services