Young people struggling with mental health issues get vital support
Cora Burt and Charley Marks were in the same year at the King Alfred School in Highbridge, Somerset. They weren’t close, but when the 18-year-old took his own life on the 10th September 2016, Cora and many of her friends struggled with a deep sense of loss.
Cora, now 26, said, “I got a couple of messages from friends saying Charley Marks had killed himself. At the time I just didn’t understand. It rocked the entire school year. Charley was always the joker, the one who’d be having a laugh. It was really shocking.”
In the wake of her son’s death Charley’s mum Jo launched a project called In Charley’s Memory to campaign for greater awareness of mental health issues in young men. The organisation, which is supported by funding made possible by National Lottery players, also offers counselling sessions to young people of any gender struggling with their mental health.
Dawn Carey, chief executive of In Charley’s Memory said, “We will never forget the tragic circumstances in which In Charley's Memory was founded. But the wonderful support of National Lottery players means we will continue to make sure every young person needing support will be seen.”
Cora was well aware of In Charley’s Memory. But despite suffering anxiety and depression she was reluctant to turn to the project for help because of her personal connection to Charley and Jo, who had been a teaching assistant when Cora was in Year 5 and 6.
Cora said, “I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life and when I was younger I had anger management issues too. I’d seen counsellors and therapists, but it never really stuck because it wasn’t something I was really interested in. I didn’t want to enact any change at the time. I was doing it because I was told to do it.”
Ultimately, Cora made the decision to turn to In Charley’s Memory for help. She said, “I thought ‘I haven’t got anything to lose and I really need this help’.”
During an initial assessment in one of the project’s counselling rooms – a “quiet, relaxed environment” – Cora said she only wanted to see a male counsellor. A week later, a representative of In Charley’s Memory got in touch to say an appointment had been arranged with a counsellor called Mike.
Cora has been seeing Mike for 2 years now and says the weekly counselling sessions have made an important difference to her life. She said, “It’s been a really positive thing for me. You can go somewhere where you don’t feel judged and you’re able to talk.
“When you talk to friends you know they’ll try to find answers for you and give you advice. Sometimes you just need to talk and rattle off what’s in your head. I can do that with Mike. When I’m over-thinking something or really bogged down with a situation I can get some clarity.”
Cora believes counselling has helped her make long-term changes too. For example, telling her story to The National Lottery in the hope of inspiring others to seek help with mental health issues, is an example of her improved self-confidence. She said, “A year ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it.”
Another small, but significant example occurred a few weeks ago. Cora said, “I was walking along the beach at Weston-super-Mare with my partner and he wanted an ice cream. We didn’t know where to get one, so I stopped a couple walking past and asked them where they had got theirs. I would never have done that in the past and it’s the counselling that has helped me do that.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, over £30Million is raised each week for good causes across the UK, including projects supporting mental health organisations like In Charley’s Memory. If you are struggling with your mental health please contact Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org.
8th September 2022
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