Youth worker makes a difference at the Royal Alex
New Youth Worker helps children and young people with mental health issues in the A&E Department of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital.
The A&E department at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton treats up to 100 children and young people every day and the numbers in mental health crisis are rising dramatically.
Doctors and nurses are seeing incidents of self-harm, attempted suicide and severe eating disorders on an alarming scale, and despite their absolute best efforts, they simply don’t have the capacity to treat the underlying issues that have resulted in their visit to the hospital.
Dr Mohammed Rahman, Paediatric Consultant and Lead for the HDU at The Alex, is at the sharp end of this crisis, seeing hundreds of young patients a day come through the A&E department at the hospital.
Dr Rahman said: “We have huge numbers of young people feeling depressed, anxious and unwanted. The numbers of teenagers we have requiring hospital admission for self-harm or attempted suicide are considerably higher compared to the national average, the amount with eating disorders has rocketed and we are seeing increasing numbers of teenagers attending A&E for alcohol or substance misuse.
“On top of that, a couple of years ago Brighton was named as the UK town most affected by County Lines, where criminal gangs from larger cities exploit vulnerable young people to supply and distribute drugs.
“As a team we do the best we can during the time these young people are in hospital, but we simply don’t have the time to explore some of the underlying issues resulting in their visit to A&E or follow up cases in a way that might prevent them from needing to be re-admitted.”
At Rockinghorse we always try to listen to what our colleagues within the NHS tell us about the additional support they feel is most needed. In this case, they explained that having a resource based right where it’s needed in the A&E department would mean that vulnerable young people could be more easily identified and helped at the point where this additional support is most likely to be successful.
So, we partnered with The Trust for Developing Communities (TDC), a Brighton based charity experienced in delivering youth work in the city, to fund a Youth Worker based in the hospital, taking a preventative approach with children and young people frequently in the care of the hospital with deteriorating mental health.
Sean Older, an experienced Youth Worker, began his role in April this year and has so far delivered a wide range of support and interventions to around 140 young people. Sean said: “Being based right where young people come into the hospital when they are at crisis point means I am in a position to help them straight away.
“Once the doctors and nurses triaged their presenting condition, I can begin working with them to discover some of the reasons they came to the A&E in the first place. I can then help them to look at helping them where they want help, managing some of the challenges and working on strategies to help improve their life.
“It’s such a great role and I’m really enjoying being able to support my colleagues in the department and ultimately help young people improve their safety & personal choices.”
Dr Oli Rahman, Paediatric Consultant at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, added: “With the introduction of a Youth Worker we can now point these vulnerable teenagers, who present to our Emergency Department, to someone who might be able to help steer them in the right direction.
“Where once we felt helpless as staff within the Department, we now feel hopeful that we can actually make a difference.”
Having this Youth Worker in post will mean that children and young people struggling as a result of mental health issues, substance abuse issues or because of violence and exploitation, can get the help they need at an early stage and before it’s too late.
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