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Mental health revolution growing in Birmingham

THINK TANK: Staff at a brainstorming session for ‘Up My Street’

BIRMINGHAM IS at the centre of a pioneering pilot project to help young people who may be on the wrong track in life simply because their mental health needs are not being met.

With support from the mental health charity Mind, three organisations in Britain’s second city are signing up to Mind’s groundbreaking ‘Up My Street’ project where young people are given help in a more flexible and informal way.

The Birmingham Rep theatre, the community engagement company First Class Legacy, which has a specialism in youth engagement, and St Basil’s a charity, which tackles youth homelessness are joining forces, to support young African Caribbean men to help build up their mental resilience.

The pilot scheme is also supported by MAC UK, which aims to support mental health services for excluded young people; The Integrate Movement, a new social enterprise that offers a new approach to the way people think about mental health, and the Centre for Mental Health, an independent national mental health charity.

The project has arisen out of startling figures that reveal how one in three young people who offend often have a mental health issue at the time of the offence which is not being addressed. Those in most need of support are the ones who are least likely to access help.

It’s well known that young African Caribbean men between the ages of 15 and 25 are one of the most over represented BME groups in in-patient mental health services in the country.

There are multiple reasons for this, but among them are discrimination, racism, stigma and cultural barriers, which all combine to give many young men a gloomy future, particularly if they are battling with homelessness.


This is where the ‘Up My Street’ project comes in to offer a ‘street therapy’ approach to these young people who slip under the radar of any traditional mental health service.

During a day-long workshop at the Holford Drive community sports HUB in Perry Barr, members of all three of Birmingham’s organisations came together to plan how they will work together over the next two years to support this vulnerable group.

Sinem Cakir, The Integrate Movement’s (TIM) director of youth participation, said: “This is all about giving traditional help to young people in a non-traditional way. It means we go to where they are and talk to them on the street or in a youth centre – we don’t expect them to come to us.

“People now realise there is no quick fix to all this, but the mental health professionals are now aware that they need to come out of their clinics and find some common ground with young people whether it’s through DJ-ing or at the local chicken shop.

“As Nathan Dennis, who runs First Class Legacy told us ‘the conversation in Nando’s can yield so much more than you could imagine.’

“We don’t expect to have all the answers, but if we don’t try different approaches we will never get any answers.”

Sarah-Jane Nii-Adjei, Mind’s senior quality improvement officer, told The Voice: “Like similar pilot projects we’ve run in other parts of the country, these three local groups when they work together will help to build an emotional resilience in African and Caribbean men.

“The ultimate aim of the project is looking at how young people can shape these services for themselves.”

According to Nathan Dennis the way forward lies in connecting with young people on social media, as his company is already doing in its ‘Dear Youngers’ project.

He said: “Young people may not be accessing local services but they can’t go ten minutes without checking their phones on social media.

“Our project provides real talk and advice for young men helping them to keep their mind right and their emotions in check during the different struggles life can bring.”

Over the coming months both Birmingham Rep and St Basil’s will team up with First Class Legacy for various events including theatre workshops.

Nii-Adjaie told the three groups at the workshop: “You are already a community of your own and a creating your own network, building on a strong foundation.”

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