Rekindle trustees are all local people who have had some direct contact with mental illness through a family member or friend. The trustees have monthly liaison meetings with the project workers to support and manage their activities. Rekindle has received no statutory funding, although it is receiving regular referrals from statutory services.
The Small Steps project works with younger people aged 16 to 25, and offers early intervention for those at risk of mental health problems, or already suffering a degree of mental distress, who may have depression or anxiety or be self-harming. This is a novel project, started by the Rekindle trustees because of a perceived need as a result of their personal experience.
The Small Steps service has provided a unique opportunity for young people in distress to engage with a professional project worker who can support them in times of crisis, guide them to the different services than can be of help, discuss with them the reasons why the referral was necessary, encourage them to understand this episode of mental distress, and support them while the problems are resolved.
The Small Steps service is unique in Wales, and has the potential to prevent serious mental illness developing at a time when young people can be at their most vulnerable. We work with younger people aged 16·25 who may be in the early stages of the development of a major mental illness or destructive behavior pattern, such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, bipolar illness or self harm. What has been missing in mental health care is the ability of these unfortunate people to engage with supportive professionals to help them through the crisis in the very early stages of the illness. Evidence, and indeed common sense, suggests that the earlier that help is given the more likely it is to be effective.
28% of all Small Steps referrals include individuals who were victims of rape, suicidal attempts or ideation, and/or self-harming behaviour. More than 80% of all Small Steps referrals originate in a Health or Mental Health service. Some of our clients have been abandoned with very little support in a region quite new to them with virtually no life experience. The right support at this age can be preventative. A lack of support can result in a downward spiral into poor mental health and abuse of various types.
Most of the trustees have personal experience of a young person having a mental illness and being provided with excellent inpatient care for the initial crisis. However, when discharged from hospital there are very inadequate support services to help the client through the next stage of re-engaging with the community. Our service provides personal support, which is structured and based on regular assessment with the Teen Star tool. The clients will have opportunities to make friends, access mutual/peer support and participate in a range of activities/hobbies in a safe, supported and non judgmental environment. They will be signposted to the most appropriate agencies for help, and supported to remain and or engaged in meaningful employment education and or training.
The Small Steps service sees people at the beginning of adult life, and some of the clients may be deflected from a path towards mental illness by timely intervention. Others may be helped before their illness becomes severe.
Mental illness is common: 1 in 4 people will suffer from it at some time in their life, but it still carries a stigma and does not have the same fundraising appeal as other causes.
The work of Rekindle fills a major gap in service provision. We are providing an example of what can be achieved with modest personal input, to show the statutory services that the provision of this sort of treatment is highly cost effective, because it works, and it helps to get people out of a dependency culture where many would otherwise remain.