A CORONAVIRUS grant will help a Salisbury family counselling charity cope with increased demand after referrals of children suffering mental health issues has doubled.

The Family Counselling Trust Wiltshire has been awarded £6,600 from Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund.

How the grant will be used

It will help pay the salary of its family liaison officer and fund courses of six counselling sessions for dozens of children aged between five and 18 from low-income families who are referred by schools, GPs and their parents.

The trust treated more than 100 children and young people last year.

'We are busier than ever'

The trust’s chairman Dr Alison Sankey said the grant will make a "huge difference" and will allow it to cope with the additional demand.

“Since the schools went back in March we have seen referrals double and we are busier than ever," she added.

“There are many more highly anxious children and a lot who have been really affected by bereavement, often of grandparents who may have played an important role in supporting the family.”

She said the young people being referred have been more exposed to traumatic situations because of lockdowns or being sent home from school because of Covid cases.

“Children are often experiencing these much more intensely because they have been stuck at home, particularly where they may be domestic abuse or substance abuse,” she said.

“They are seeing stuff that they may have been aware of but perhaps not so exposed to before.”

Dr Sankey said anxiety manifests itself in many ways and can lead to tension and family breakdowns.

“It can lead to not eating, not sleeping, lost confidence in social situations, difficulty in making friends, fears about going to school and fear about what is happening at home,” she added.

“You also see meltdowns and aggression in younger children. It is very common to see aggression displayed as a form of anxiety because they can’t actually recognise they are anxious.”

'Tackling issues early'

The majority of children the trust sees are aged between 11 and 12.

Dr Sankey said it is important to tackle issues early. “If you don’t address these problems in children early they continue into adolescence and adulthood,” said Dr Sankey.

“The vast majority of more serious mental health problems begin in adolescence and if you can treat them before that it makes a massive difference.”

The trust

The trust works in the Salisbury and west Wiltshire area as well as around Chippenham and Devizes, although it wants to recruit more therapists in the north of the county and is also targeting Army families around Salisbury Plain.

The charity, which has four branches covering Wiltshire, Hampshire, Somerset and Dorset and was recently visited by Wiltshire High Sheriff Sir Charles Hobhouse, assesses each referral and connects the child with a suitable therapist in their area.

Wiltshire Community Foundation

Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund, has already distributed £1.5 million to more than 350 groups across the county.

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “It is no secret that children and younger people have suffered over lockdown because of the isolation and increased pressure on them but to hear referrals have doubled really underlines that.

“The Family Counselling Trust Wiltshire is doing a wonderful job because its early intervention for these young people is not only helping low-income families in incredibly difficult circumstances, it is potentially relieving pressure on mental health services further down the line.”

Visit: counsellingtrust.org and wiltshirecf.org.uk


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