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World Mental Health Day – why confiding in a stranger can make all the difference

Date: 7 October 2022
Author: Deborah Kerpner
Title: Co-Ordinator of Off The Record Twickenham

Did you know that Richmond has the highest level of self-harm hospitalisations among young people in London?

Richmond may be a wealthy and leafy borough, but not everyone knows the high level of emotional distress its young people suffer from. We have the highest level of self-harm hospitalisations in London, and one of the highest levels of risky behaviour. Additionally, 83% of young people interviewed nationally felt that the pandemic negatively impacted their emotional wellbeing, making youth mental health more important than ever before.

We see young people facing every issue possible but anxiety, family issues, self-esteem and depression are the most common. Suicidal thoughts and self-harm are also alarmingly high. At Off The Record (OTR) we generally talk about emotional wellbeing rather than mental health, as much of what causes distress to young people is emotional, including facing life challenges, rather than a mental problem.

It’s so important to seek early support as problems emerge, as this helps young people to identify and regulate their emotions in a way which can enrich their lives and support them into adulthood, rather than become derailed at a vital stage of their development.

As a young person-led service, a confidential space where young people can feel heard, empowered and safe to talk about anything they need to, is absolutely vital. It’s not always that they’re keeping big secrets or are at risk, but they often feel so much shame that they are too scared to speak to friends or family.

Having someone external to confide in, like a counsellor, can make all the difference. It takes courage to reach out, but users of our service say they feel validated, taken seriously and not judged, and they leave OTR in a better place and more able to manage their lives.

OTR offers information, sexual health support, crisis drop-in and regular counselling to young people aged 11-24 who live, work or study in Richmond borough. We also offer telephone support to parents.

Our ‘Get Help’ page also has links to our parent page and other local organisations, such as Richmond Borough Mind and MiD Counselling. There are also national support lines like the SHOUT texting service on 85258 - a great 24 hour support service for young people.

Find out more about Off The Record (OTR).

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Updated: 7 October 2022