Meet The Team: Alison King, our Mental Health Practitioner
Recent figures published by the NHS shows 2022 has the highest rates of probable mental health disorders in young people since records began. Our Mental Health Practitioner Alison is no stranger to these statistics — she is working on the front-line providing counselling and preventative support for young people in Cumbria experiencing or likely to experience mental health illness.
Working with schools and local communities, Alison is helping young people learn how to improve their own wellbeing and spot signs of low mental health in themselves, and their peers so that help and support can be provide straight away.
We caught up with Alison at Project John, our community hub in Barrow-in-Furness to learn more about her work and the future of mental health for young people.
- Tell us, what is a Mental Health Practitioner?
A Mental Health Practitioner is a professional who provides support to individuals with their mental health. In my case, I am a qualified person-centred counsellor.
- Can you give any examples of why a young person might come to you for help?
Young people might come to use our counselling service for lots of different reasons. They may be struggling with anxiety, low mood, issues with school, home life or bereavement. Any issue that is preventing them from being their best self, whereby having a therapeutic space to talk through those issues might help them to overcome this.
- What inspired you to become a Mental Health Practitioner?
I’ve always loved listening to people’s stories and offering advice to friends whenever I can, but when I was studying my undergraduate degree (Sociology at Edge Hill Uni), I started volunteering with ChildLine in Liverpool. I did a 12 week training course with them to become a ChildLine counsellor, and it was during this time that I realised I’d love to become a counsellor. I spoke to lots of young people through my time at ChildLine; over the phone, via email & 1:1 chats and this reaffirmed my passion to help young people in particular. I then applied for my Counselling & Psychotherapy MA at Uni of Cumbria, thought I’d flunked the interview, but got a place and haven’t looked back!
- We are talking more about the importance of young people’s mental health in this country – why do you think that is?
I think that we are trying to break down the stereotypes & stigma surrounding mental health, and it’s important to do this for young people so that they can continue to grow with this attitude, hopefully with more generations to come. This means that (ideally!) it will be easier for individuals to get support, as they will feel more able to speak about what is going on for them. For young people especially, it is important to have an understanding of where certain behaviours are coming from – otherwise the way they are supported could be detrimental to them in their lives moving forward.
- What do you see for the future of Mental Health Support for young people in the UK?
I’d love to see more opportunities for free face-to-face counselling for young people, but I think there needs to be more awareness about the things that can be done to support young people’s mental health, without those opportunities. I think this is slowly happening & young people have access to support through technology which may work for some, but a lot more needs to be done to prevent the damaging effects of the world we currently live in. I think every school needs a team of mental health practitioners in there to support their students – and also some mandatory mental health training for all teachers!
Discover more about our life-changing Cumbrian community programmes here.
Image: Alison at Barrow-in-Furness Pride 2022.