Healthy minds

14 May 2019 | West and South West England

OTR Bristol - Pippa Edwards

Local mental health social movement helping young people across the south west.

Mental health is a buzz-word these days but now charities helping promote good mental health for youngsters too in their communities.

Off The Record is a local mental health social movement for young people aged 11-25 in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Among their various programmes, they run the Resilience Lab, which promotes good mental health for youngsters, stress management and self-help workshops. Classes are run by a team of trained young people who advise how to cope with stress, discover strengths, keep on top of things when life gets tough and build resilience.

The Lab runs as a series of free and fun weekly workshops in Bristol and Yate, packed full of activities, games and ideas to help look after your mental health. They also take the Resilience Lab into schools, colleges, universities and other youth settings across Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

Pippa Richards, now 23, can relate to teens suffering from anxiety and mental health problems caused by the pressures of modern life. She came along to the programme aged 21, feeling very low but has come through the other side and is now working for the project and supporting youngsters and teaching them the importance of resilience.

A former student of Bristol’s University of the West of England, Pippa says pressure began to build at school from exams.

“The stress of study, it really got to me,” she explains. “It all built up until I could not cope any more. From GCSE to A-Levels, on to university, it all accumulated and it definitely affected my mental health. The expectation on me was mind-blowing. But slowly and surely I realised that working 24-hours was not a good idea and that I needed to look after myself.

“I attended meetings and workshops for around five weeks. After that I was like, I want to volunteer and help others. I wanted to give back and felt in a great position to do so. I felt it was important to support younger people than me because I could relate to what they were going through.

“People don’t take you seriously when you are young, and that is hard. It is even harder today with social media. I want to tell people it is ok to feel how you feel. Don’t worry about how you look. Being that person who has gone through troubles and am now on the other side, hopefully that is an inspiration to others.”

She added: “Resilience is a life skill that everyone needs. It is not about fixing every issue, it is about how you go about handling that problem and building resilience.”

There are classes every week, including ones that embrace mindfulness and breathing techniques. Pressure Proof discusses stress-busting techniques while another class called Super Me looks to empower young people.

Pippa says: “Stress is a fact of life, the key is how you deal with it and use it to your advantage. We are all about bouncing back up again and moving forwards.”

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