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Breaking down barriers

Crisis Café is a mental health service for young people aged 12-18 years providing support on all aspects of emotional and mental wellbeing. It is a youth led service with over 200 ambassadors managed and guided by practitioners with skills in mental health and participation.

Offering Crisis Drop-In and Friendship Cafés, young people can access professional support on a non-referral basis, as well as peer-based activities and support to promote positive mental wellness.

The organisation partnered with Meigh Pharmacy for a BCPP Level 2 project where they would work with young people to develop a healthy and resilient mindset within a group setting. The project aimed to increase community connections, provide young people with increased accessibility to community support and reduce social isolation and loneliness which will increase help seeking behaviours.

I have learnt so much about the healthcare needs young people face and the barriers preventing them accessing this. As a direct result of the BCPP project, I am better able to help young people in the pharmacy and empower them with knowledge regarding health and choices. The project was so much fun, and I felt everyone opened up and shared which was really lovely.’

Aine McNulty, Pharmacist

With the growing mental health crisis across NI, Crisis Café wanted to respond to the mental health needs of young people arising out of disadvantage such as residing in deprived areas, within low-income families and experiencing multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences. Covid-19 had exacerbated this crisis creating new needs arising from the pandemic changing young people’s social lives, daily routine, education and creating difficulties in social connections. Fifteen young people signed up to the BCPP project and developed the programme along with the Young Advisory Group and the Pharmacist. Empowering young people to make these decisions and be involved in the design of the programme provided them with a sense of ownership and encouraged attendance and engagement.

The Pharmacist covered a wide range of information about the world of medicine for young people. It was useful to learn that I can speak privately to the Pharmacist. I have since used this service.’

Harry, Project Participant

The group met weekly for 14 weeks in the Café exploring various topics chosen by them around positive mental health, coping strategies, health literacy, lived experiences and creating community connections. Ten lead sessions were delivered by Pharmacist Aine McNulty and four were co-facilitated sessions by Aine and community support organisations. During the project, Aine, the Pharmacist also took time with group members for one to one support and guidance around health and wellbeing issues. Aine educated the group about the role of a local Pharmacy and its services and support improving health literacy amongst the group and knowledge of where and how to access the local services and support.

The BCPP project offered a lot of learning for us and identified support out there that we didn’t know about.’

Dean, Project Participant

The group members were delighted to welcome Eating Disorders Awareness NI to the café for an educational workshop designed to increase knowledge and skills around eating disorders, wellness and recovery. Action Mental Health delivered sessions on positive mental health for young people with the opportunity to practise self-care and resilience techniques. Invaluable workshops from Garden of Music and Sticky Fingers Arts took place which explored the benefits of creative activities such as art and music in boosting confidence increasing engagement and resilience whilst alleviating anxiety, depression and stress.

The BCPP project supported the young people by positively impacting through improved health literacy and understanding of the social determinants of health. It provided the young people with coping strategies to manage presenting mental health issues and increase confidence to seek support. The goal was to break down barriers to accessing services and increase help seeking behaviours and it is fantastic to see the young people utilising Pharmacy services more often after involvement in this BCPP project. One participant said he ‘learned pretty useful stuff’ while another told us ‘Not everyone wants to go see the family doctor – it feels easier to go speak to the Pharmacist.’

Grainne from Crisis Café highlighted how passionate the Café is about community development and continually seeks to empower the young people they support by reducing stigma, overcoming barriers and increasing help seeking behaviours. 

‘As part of the BCPP programme, we provided young people with increased accessibility to community-based support within a warm, inviting and non-stigmatising environment where they can avail of a range of activities and services to improve overall mental wellness.’

Grainne, Crisis Cafe