This guest blog is written by The Abingdon Bridge (TAB) who give an insight into how they have adapted provision for young people amongst the coronavirus pandemic and how they will continue to do so through the transition to ‘normality’. Thanks to Gary Hibbins for writing this blog and the team at TAB!

“TAB  – Healthy minds, Healthy futures, Every mind matters”

Our mission: The Abingdon Bridge is leading the way in championing the wellbeing & mental health of young people aged 13-25 across the Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire. Our support enables young people to have the resilience to help overcome life’s challenges.

The Abingdon Bridge (TAB) have remodelled and modified our service delivery in response to Covid – 19 – Great organisations do not stop their mission when faced with challenges and problems. We rise to the challenge and are proactive in being part of the solution.

TAB reacted quickly in response to COVID-19. Our Trustees and Clinical team worked fast to ensure good governance so that we could carry on supporting our current clients and increase the offer to other local young people in need of Wellbeing support. The key element to any intervention is safety! TAB has taken appropriate steps to ensure we keep both staff and young people safe.

We are currently offering the following via video conferencing (including using Teams, Facetime, Skype, Zoom etc):

  • 1-2-1 Counselling via video conferencing
  • 1-2-1 Healthy lifestyle mentoring sessions
  • Wellbeing groups for ages (13-15) (16-18) (18-25)
  • Parent workshops on “overcoming your child’s fears and worries”
  • Virtual gym sessions
  • Guided Anxiety and stress busting workshops / sessions

Our qualified experienced clinical team are currently supporting 80 individual young people per week.

Our society’s mental health is under attack – It’s very important we are all mindful in our reaction to the challenges we face. Young people need a secure base, they need continuity and stability. They are witnessing the world as they know it change around them; they are witnessing their parents becoming anxious and worried; they are struggling with the lost connections of relationships and meeting with peers.  They are being bombarded by news and headlines across social media.

There is a risk that the charity sector could “overwhelm”. The tsunami of advice about how to stay well that arrives through our phones, emails, social media and TV can leave us feeling overwhelmed. It can fuel our anxieties rather than contain it. Young people are reporting they are starting to feel overwhelmed by the amount of content on “mental health” they are seeing online.

We are working in conjunction with our client advisory group (made up of local young people) who are helping us understand what the need is and what young people are finding useful. We are also reaching out to our local partners to ensure we do not duplicate projects and explore opportunities for partnership work to enhance the offer for young people and their parents.

The “Exit strategy”

We continue to keep track of the impact COVID-19 is having on our organisation, on the sector and the impact on those we serve whilst working on an “exit strategy”. We may have seen a peak in COVID-19 cases but we have not seen the peak in young people’s anxiety or the behaviours this comes with.

Research carried out by young minds suggests that young people who were previously struggling with high or moderate mental health issues are now feeling even worse during the lockdown. However, for many this has been an extended Easter break, many are in their “safe zone” the real problem will come when young people are expected to return to whatever “normality” looks like. Going back to school, meeting friends, returning to work etc will all become triggers for anxiety.

We are working with schools, Thames Valley Police, GP’s and other partners to ensure that we have universal interventions ready to support young people with this transition. We are also devising plans with our partners to ensure we engage the “hard to reach” young people who can so easily slip through the net. This work will be delivered through focused sessions and some detached work in hotspot areas.

TAB will also be offering a series of training events to support our partners. Some of the requested themes are on:

  • Supporting young people to manage and regulate their emotions
  • Looking past the “presenting behaviours”
  • Counselling skills for practitioners
  • Engaging “marginalised minds”
  • Managing change

For more information, or to explore collaboration and partnership opportunities feel free to get in touch.