OTR, a mental health social movement by and for young people, is excited to launch new services across North Somerset, providing mental health and wellbeing information and support for 11-18 year olds in the area. Young people can sign up for OTR’s services now at otrnorthsomerset.org.uk.
OTR (“Off the Record”) has provided free, confidential and self-referral support for young people in Bristol since 1965, and now offers a broad range of wellbeing support projects across Bristol and South Gloucestershire, including one-to-one and group work.
OTR has a reputation for working in an inclusive, youth-led and strengths-based way, and now reaches over 13,000 young people each year through a diverse range of offers, including increasing digital provision.
It is this digital offer, alongside delivery in schools across North Somerset, that OTR opens up to 11-18 year olds in the first instance. OTR will continue to work in line with lockdown guidelines and will soon have sourced a premises in the region to develop further ‘in-person’ work in the coming months.
OTR’s reach into North Somerset has been guided by collaboration and consultation with partners and existing service providers in North Somerset, and will be shaped further by young people’s voice and needs.
The current OTR North Somerset offer includes:
‘Resilience Lab’ - these group sessions contain a whole host of ideas about how to cope with stress, stay relaxed, discover strengths, reach out to others and keep on top of things when life gets tough. The Lab runs as a series of free and fun weekly workshops, packed full of activities, games and ideas to help look after mental health and build resilience. Resilience Lab can also be delivered in school settings and OTR encourages school staff to get in touch with the team to arrange this.
‘Mind Aid’ - a group workshop for anyone aged 11-17 struggling with difficult feelings related to stress, anxiety, low mood, or depression. Mind Aid looks at how living in difficult situations can cause these feelings, and shares ways that might help us manage better in what is often a stressful world. Young people will learn how to protect themselves from everyday challenges, how to challenge thoughts, how to relax and feel safe (a strategy that can also help with sleeplessness!), and how to use simple techniques to build and maintain good mental health.
‘Acts of Activism’ - an eight week long project for 16-18 year olds where the group will learn about different topics around social action and activism. Each week, we hear from a different young local activist, and explore ways to take small acts of activism in our own daily lives.
Work in schools - OTR will also work in schools around North Somerset. A friendly team of ‘Wellbeing Practitioners’ and Community Development Workers will deliver brief evidence-based therapeutic work to young people including one-to-one, group and workshop settings in secondary schools across North Somerset, supporting young people with tools and strategies to look after their own wellbeing. OTR’s work in schools will take place on a termly rotation and will start in September 2021.
OTR today launches its North Somerset website, where young people can ‘sign up’ to the aforementioned projects, empowered to make their own choice about the most suitable and appealing group. This ‘menu’ of options can be accessed via a homepage panel which first asks a young person ‘What’s going on for you?’. Choosing the identified emotion/experience leads young people to useful information and signposts the most relevant OTR service/s. OTR takes sign-ups from young people directly - rather than parent/carer/professional referrals. otrnorthsomerset.org.uk also contains a range of wellbeing resources and information, and the site will continue to grow in the coming weeks.
This will be followed by even further support in schools via the roll-out of Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) in early 2022, part of a Government Green Paper for transforming and expanding children and young people’s mental health care and key to the ‘BNSSG Long-Term Plan’ for children and young people.
OTR Chief Executive Karen Black said:
“We’re really excited to start phasing our offer into the area and working alongside partners and young people to help build a healthier, happier North Somerset. We want to work as flexibly as possible within community settings to let young people know that support is out there for when things are tough and stressful, but also for understanding what keeps us well and happy. We’re delighted to have been welcomed so warmly already and can’t wait to develop more services in the coming months!”
The opportunity for OTR to expand into North Somerset is made possible by funding from the local Clinical Commissioning Group in recognition that further support for young people is needed in the area, with a focus on early intervention and prevention.
Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Head of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Contracts, Emma Moody, said:
“It is fantastic that we have been able to enhance our mental health offering to children and young people across North Somerset working alongside our partners OTR, Sirona care & health, Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership, North Somerset Council and our Parent Carer Forum.
This is a really positive development for the area which will provide additional support to young people, when it’s most needed. We look forward to hearing more about how services are received as they begin to embed themselves within the local area and as we develop the offering in line with the needs and ambitions of our North Somerset community”.
Lorraine McMullen, Associate Director of Children’s Services at Sirona care & health, added:
“We are really pleased to be working with Off The Record and expanding the service offer for children, young people and their families to support quality mental health support in North Somerset. This will improve accessibility for this service in the locality and is a progressive step to meeting the NHS long term plan and the integrated care system approach.
It is recognised that young people have a growing need to access mental health support in response to COVID restoration and our preventative approach to mental health. This support will prepare young people to cope with the challenging road ahead. Emotional wellbeing is really important for all of our teams and the expertise of OTR locally in North Somerset will be a valuable asset for our partnership across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire”.
OTR is committed to building long-term partnerships with communities across North Somerset so that the best possible service can be provided to young people. A point of contact has been set up for anyone with initial questions, ideas and comments to help develop thinking for the introduction into the area: firstname.lastname@example.org
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