Children and young people worried about anything from online bullying to a death in the family will be able to get confidential help when a new drop-in service is launched by Barnardo’s Cymru.

The aim of the new Beyond the Blue community-based service is aimed at those struggling with mental health or emotional wellbeing issues who are unable to access current school-based counselling.

The sessions will be launched in the next few weeks in a variety of community venues across Neath Port Talbot including youth centres, colleges, the YMCA and GP surgeries.

Children and young people will be able to access instant advice and support.

Specially trained counsellors will be available for those who want to take up an offer of more formal counselling while others will be offered a listening ear or signposted to relevant specialists.

The new service is part of a much wider package of support provided by Barnardo’s Cymru through Families First funding. The two year project which began last April includes school-based groups, emotional support for families, adult and child counselling, bereavement counselling and support, family group conferencing and play therapy.

The school-based emotional well-being group has proved to be a much-needed resource with many of the pupils referred because they are self-harming or may have suicidal ideation.

Kath Ahern, Team Manager with Barnardo’s Beyond the Blue, said: “Not all children and young people in need are able to access school-based counselling because of their particular circumstances.

“They may not be attending school, or they may be suffering emotional distress and not want to go through the usual referral system. Some young people we see are concerned about the stigma of accessing a school based service. The drop-in sessions will give them a confidential way of getting help without having to be formally referred.”

The venues for the sessions will be advertised on social media, on school noticeboards, at youth and community venues and GP surgeries.

“Some children just don’t have anyone to talk to about their problems and need a listening ear.

"Counselling can provide children with strategies to help deal with these issues and encourage more positive thought patterns, whilst others may need more specialist help to deal with anxiety, depression or eating disorders and may need more intensive or long term treatment,” said Kath.

She said that more children are being affected by suicides in the family and family breakdowns and more are self-harming as a coping mechanism.

“Young people are exposed to so much more and have a greater awareness of extreme behaviours these days through social media and the media in general, therefore some are turning to negative coping strategies to ease their pain and distress.

“We know there are a lot of children out there who are struggling and feeling isolated but not accessing any current provision,” said Kath. “We hope this new service will provide support for those who really need it.”

Councillor Peter Rees, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills & Culture, said: “I am delighted we are able to offer the new Beyond the Blue service to children and young people in Neath Port Talbot”

“The Council is committed to providing the right emotional and mental wellbeing support services to those who need it. We hope this initiative will improve the accessibility to such services and enable young people to better cope with the stresses and difficulties they may be facing.”

“One of our key priorities is to give all young people the best start in life so they can be the best they can be.”