YMCA Cambridgeshire & Peterborough has launched a counselling service in schools across the region to combat the rise of mental health problems in young people.
The new YMCA service provides sustainable in-house counselling, allowing schools to support their pupils in the face of budget cuts and the increasing demand for mental health services.
Research conducted by YMCA and NHS England revealed more than one in three young people with mental health problems experience stigma, with 54 per cent saying prejudice originates from their own friends.
The charity is also concerned about the scale and impact of low body confidence on young people’s lives, after researchers spoke to 2,000 secondary school pupils (aged 11 to 16).

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They found more than half regularly worried about how they look, while nearly two thirds (63%) said what others think of their looks is important to them.
A worrying 36 per cent were willing to do ‘whatever it takes to look good’.
The YMCA counselling programme is currently active in over 40 schools in East Anglia, some of which have piloted the scheme since April 2015, and counselling is offered as and when children need it.
Counsellors go into the school to provide the service – in a safe environment for the young people involved.
Sessions are normally provided on a weekly basis and cover anything from six weeks of group work to over 14 weeks for play therapy.
Fran Hollingsworth, Headteacher at Gunthorpe Primary School in Peterborough signed the school up for the YMCA Play Therapy sessions last year.
She said: “The YMCA offer has a great impact on our pupils, as the service provides the time and support our children need to discuss individual worries or concerns that are affecting their everyday lives.”
Jonathan Martin, CEO of YMCA Cambridgeshire & Peterborough said: “We are committed to helping create supportive, inclusive and transforming communities where young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive. As part of this commitment we are pleased to be bringing this service to help schools across Cambridgeshire.
“Our recent research highlights just how great the need is for schools to deliver counselling for their students in order to help alleviate mental health issues in our young people – our aim is to provide primary and secondary schools with the necessary support to intervene at an early stage in children’s education.”
A launch event is taking place on Thursday, March 16 at Queen Anne House, Cambridge, to raise awareness of mental health issues and inform more schools about the programme.
For more information or to sign up to the event, contact ryan.armes@theymca.org.uk or call 01733 373187.

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