How Bec reaches out to help families cope with youth mental health issues
- Credit: Bec Jasper
Youth mental health campaigner Bec Jasper believes the work of PACT (Parents and Carers Together) has never been more vital.
Bec, from Framlingham, has seen how pressure on the mental health of children and young people in Suffolk has grown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We currently offer support for 700 parents and carers in Suffolk - but we know there are a lot of people who are not aware we are here," she said.
"Quite often, we still have people saying, 'We have been looking for support and didn't know you existed'."
It was revealed this month there have been 25,000 referrals to the Suffolk Emotional Wellbeing Hub in just three years, showing the scale of the need in the county.
With so much strain on families and long waiting lists for mental health support and treatment amid the pandemic, the mum wants to get the message across that PACT can help.
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"We don't have a referral system and we don't charge parents," she said, stressing the support offered is free and confidential.
"We offer a safe environment of support with no judgement."
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PACT helps parents and carers who need support over everything from their children's anxiety, depression and self-harm to school refusal/anxiety, OCD, psychosis, eating and sleeping issues.
It started in 2013, after Bec became aware of the need. She said: "It was after one of my children developed anxiety.
"I co-founded it with another parent when we were looking for support for other parents and families.
"We couldn't find any support either in Suffolk or pretty much across the country, and decided we would start meeting and having coffees."
Co-directors Bec and Clare Morgan Hare work together with two other trustees and have seen steady growth over the years.
Since those first meetings for coffee at Costa in Stowmarket, meet-ups have also been introduced in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft.
Due to Covid-19, its in-person get-togethers have had to be suspended, but the support and friendship have moved online instead.
Instead of meeting over tea or coffee, parents who belong to PACT's closed Facebook support group now brew up a drink at home and sit down for a weekly chat online.
PACT also offers a support line (not 24 hours), via phone and email.
And it works closely with many other support groups and charities around the area, reaching out to the community and campaigning over young people's mental health issues.
As restrictions are eased, fortnightly walks have already resumed in Lowestoft, where PACT works together with Sue Willgoss, who set up the Lift Loud for Danny charity in memory of her son, Daniel.
And Bec said: "We are talking at the moment about bringing back some face-to-face meets."
However, she added online chats had actually been working better for some parents, who struggle to get to meet-ups. "So we will be continuing with online as well."
Over recent years, Bec has deepened her own knowledge of the whole area of mental health. and undergone a range of training, as she and others at PACT continuously research new ideas and projects.
She is now a trainer and practitioner in several different areas, which all aim to help parents develop the skills and confidence they need to help their child. "We help parents to work with their own children," she said.
"We believe that parents and carers are ideally placed to support their child's mental health, and aim to provide the training, resources and tools to enable us all to do so."
Bec is a trainer in youth mental health first aid and parent-guided CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).
She has also studied the SPACE treatment programme, a new treatment developed at Yale which helps parents who are living with an anxious child.
Bec was able to train with Yale staff online - due to the expansion of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
She can lead workshops and one-to-one sessions for people who want to learn more about these techniques.
For more information about PACT, visit its website.