A decade of caring

Penumbra 10th Anniversary, from left, Kathy Hamilton, volunteer co-ordinator; Lynda O'Leary, administration worker Mark Grant, youth worker; Amber Higgins, project manager; Claire Davidson, project worker ;  Liam Shepherd, youth worker and Sharon Little, youth worker.

Penumbra 10th Anniversary, from left, Kathy Hamilton, volunteer co-ordinator; Lynda O'Leary, administration worker Mark Grant, youth worker; Amber Higgins, project manager; Claire Davidson, project worker ; Liam Shepherd, youth worker and Sharon Little, youth worker.

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TEN years ago the youth mental health charity Penumbra started up in Kirkcaldy.

Its aim was to help plug the gap in the provision of support for youngsters experiencing mental health difficulties.

Today, Penumbra has grown from providing help to around 15 individuals to supporting around 300 young people and groups each year who are experiencing problems ranging from bullying and low self esteem to social isolation and relationship difficulties.

And, with just seven staff and the same number of volunteer helpers, it is also getting into all areas of the community, including schools, to help provide early intervention and support to prevent thousands of young people facing a potential lifetime of more serious mental health issues.

Referrals

Although it is difficult to quantify the extent of the support it provides, the ever increasing number of referrals and people obtaining help from the charity is testament to its success, while the feedback from those referring young people as well as the clients themselves, has been very positive.

And it is proud that every person who comes looking for a helping hand is seen within four weeks of their referral to ensure they are given the support they need as soon as possible.

Amber Higgins, project manager, has been with Penumbra from day one, working initially as a development worker before taking over as manager in 2005.

And she believes there is more need than ever before for a helping hand for young people experiencing mental health issues.

“The service we provide today compared to when we started out is vastly different and we are much more community based than we were in the beginning,” she explained.

“We used to do a lot of one to one referrals, and while we still do individual support, we do a lot more work out in schools and with youth organisations to help back up the early intervention aim we have.

Visits

“We go along to health days and assemblies and speak to the young people about our work and they tell us the issues they want to talk about and it is proving very successful.

“Young people are much more aware of what can affect their mental wellbeing, even from as young as 12 years, and they are more willing to speak up about bullying, low self esteem, self harm and suicidal thoughts than they were before and to seek help, which is a big step in the right direction.”