Working as a Mental Health Practitioner at Action for Children (AFC)

19th Jan, 20

Working as a Mental Health Practitioner at Action for Children (AFC)

For three years I was employed as a Mental Health Practitioner for the charity Action for Children (AFC).  During this time, my role involved training staff in mental health and associated issues, as well as providing a mental health service to children and young people living in the Wigan Borough.  Within this position, I was working alongside intensive family support (IFS) workers who provided support to extremely vulnerable families under the care of children’s social care.  Often families had failed to previously engage with services, however almost every family who were offered the mental health support over the three years choose to engage.

A huge benefit of the role and why I believe engagement levels were so high was because this was the only mental health service in Wigan which provided therapeutic support to children and young people on an outreach basis.  Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) will rarely visit children at home and other counselling services available require the young person to travel to them.  I found that it was a great advantage to be able to have sessions with the young people in an environment they felt most comfortable.  Young people have often discussed with me the fear they feel when attending their first CAMHS or counselling appointment, therefore I found it to be a great advantage to be able to offer a choice around where it will be held.  In addition, the role allowed me to offer mental health to parents and carers, along with working systematically with the family.

The training aspect of the job was especially important as I believe all professionals working with children and young people should receive training around mental health and wellbeing.  I was quite surprised to find how very little training is provided to key organisations working at the frontline with children and young people, such as children’s social care, the police and prison officers.  In addition to working in Wigan, I delivered cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to prisoners serving their sentences in the mother and baby unit at New Hall Prison in Wakefield.  The rationale behind this was to provide support to vulnerable mothers to enable them to feel more able to cope with life’s struggles, as well as feel confident developing resilience in their children.

Please see below a link to a video which was published that outlines in more detail the impact this role had.  How the mental health support was delivered within this role provides a great example of how future services could offer effective support to children and young people:

Watch video here


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Crisis Support

SHOUT - the UK’s first 24/7 free text-based service for anyone struggling to cope and in need of immediate help. Text 85258

Childline - free and confidential advice for young people in the UK telephone 0800 1111

Papyrus Hopeline UK - for confidential suicide prevention advice telephone 0800 068 4141

Samaritans - is a free confidential support line for anyone in crisis no matter the age of the person. You can either telephone 116 123 or an email service is available.

CALM - Helpline for people in the UK who are down or who have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support 0800 585 858

HOPELINEUK - Confidential support and advice service for Children and Young People under the age of 35 who are experiencing thoughts of suicide or for anyone concerned about someone else’s safety 0800 068 41 41

The Mix - Information, support and listening for people under 25 0808 808 4994