Young people with mental health issues from across North Wales are preparing for an epic voyage aboard a tall ship later this year and have been helped out by a £90,000 grant from the region’s policing chief.
The aim is to find a ten-strong crew to help sail the vessel on a trip organised by mental health charity Hafal from Holyhead to Bangor, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland, and preparation is well advanced.
The latest training session has seen potential sailors from across North Wales take to the water on paddle boards at Llyn Padarn with expert tuition from Sian Sykes of Psyched Paddleboards.
The programme of preparation for the 16 to 24-year-olds is being paid for by a £30,000 annual grant for three years from the North Wales Police and the Crime Commissioner’s Early Intervention Fund and shared between Hafal and Gwynedd and Anglesey MIND.
The charities are working together to provide a range of anxiety and depression-busting courses for young people which include a tall ship voyage with the Cirdan Trust to teach teamwork, responsibility and taking risks.
It’s aimed at supporting young people affected by anxiety and depression or early-stage psychosis and Commissioner Arfon Jones was at Llyn Padarn to see the recruits being put through their paces. He commented: “It’s a great project. It builds self-reliance and I like that.
“It’s good for the individuals and for society and it’s definitely good for the services they would be using if this project wasn’t here. It’s a win-win for everyone.
“By supporting it we are addressing the underlying causes of problems they may have now and in the future”
Daniel Bartlett, Practice Leader for Hafal’s North Wales Early Intervention Team, said: “We work with young people referred to us by the Health Board from across North Wales.
“We aim to help them deal with their vulnerability to stress and anxiety and if we didn’t have a service like this then they would be in danger of going out and committing crimes.
“It has also helped them get into the world of work. Last year seven came on the programme and five of them are now in full-time employment.
“It builds resilience and helps them deal with the stress in their lives and so far we have had a number of sessions this year including mountain biking, sailing and foraging and we’re thinking of doing yoga and it’s all building towards a week away on a tall ship.
“We have 42 young people on the project and we hope to have ten of them on the ship this year which will be the third year we’ve done this.”
Among those taking part was Liam McAuley, 23, from Blaenau Ffestiniog, who said: “I’ve been on the sailing course at Colwyn Bay and it was really good. I’m hoping to get on the tall ship as well.
“The people who are helping us from Hafal are really committed and helpful and I’m really enjoying it.”
Amy Catterall, 18, from Connah’s Quay, said: “I’ve been karting, rock climbing, on low ropes and bowling and it’s been great.
“I’d love to go on the tall ship. I’m really excited about it.”
Alun Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of Hafal, said: “We’re delighted to receive this money from the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner for such a positive and ambitious project.
“Over the next three years we hope to support young people by providing some life-changing activities which will really expand their horizons. We look forward to working with our partners Ynys Môn and Gwynedd Mind on a project that will really deliver for young people in North Wales.”
Arfon Jones, a former Police Inspector, added: “Crime is a symptom, the underlying causes of crime are what have to be looked at and addressed and that’s what the Early Intervention Fund is about because if we can act early in the lives of these young people at risk then we can prevent this pattern of behaviour.”