Charity transforming young people’s lives in Falkirk through innovative new programmes

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Falkirk is at the forefront of an innovative new programme which aims to turn young people’s lives around.

The ‘Steps To Resilience’ course is run by health and wellbeing charity, LinkLiving, and is designed to help young people who have experienced trauma in their life, are struggling with poor mental health and/or are experiencing inequality and isolation.

The charity has run eight of these personal development courses to date and they are currently launching new courses in Falkirk and Fife.

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A phenomenal 90 per cent of participants on the first Falkirk based course in 2018 have moved on to positive destinations (full-time employment, further education, volunteering) and they reported increases in confidence and self-belief, life skills and the ability to manage stress and anxiety. They also received support to engage with other local services to help them in different ways.

Young people on the Steps to Resilience programme take part in a fun team building activity. Pic: LinkLiving.Young people on the Steps to Resilience programme take part in a fun team building activity. Pic: LinkLiving.
Young people on the Steps to Resilience programme take part in a fun team building activity. Pic: LinkLiving.

There are two programmes. One is specifically for young people aged 14-16 who are struggling to attend school due to mental health issues. The other is for 16-25 year olds, where a young person can refer themselves or be recommended by a social worker, homelessness prevention officer, the Scottish Government’s Developing Young Workforce (DYW) programme, or another local charity or organisation.

The courses are funded by a National Lottery Young Start grant, Cash Back for Communities and the John Scott Charitable Trust and Steps To Resilience has been so popular that LinkLiving can’t meet the demand.

They already have a substantial waiting list, so the charity is now seeking additional funding to roll this out to more young people in Falkirk and Fife and potentially extend into other areas in East Central Scotland such as Edinburgh and Clackmannanshire where there is huge interest in the programme.


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Marc Aitchison.Marc Aitchison.
Marc Aitchison.

Marc Aitchison (17) from Denny was referred to the course by his teacher because she thought it would benefit him to meet other people who had faced similar challenges in their life.

Marc had attempted to take his own life. In addition to medication, he was given an emergency place on the Steps To Resilience course to meet new people and learn coping strategies.

He said: “As a teenage boy you’re not encouraged to show your emotion, you’re told to ‘man up’ and just get on with your day, don’t cry.

“I’ve learned a lot about mental health through this course and I’m better at coping with my emotions.”

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Marc gradually began to open up and talk about how he’s feeling on the course because he had supportive people around him.

He explained: “If you’re feeling emotional or you’ve had a bad day there’s a breakout room with staff who are there to talk to you. They even offered to talk to me on the phone after the course if I need them.

“Talking to someone who has experienced similar things such as depression really helps, because they understand exactly how you feel.

“Everyone on the course was very sociable and genuine and I wanted to put 100 per cent effort in because they were all giving up their time to be there too.”

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Marc has continued with judo classes because they help him to keep a positive attitude. The exercise helps to release endorphins but he also feels a real sense of achievement.

He added: “I feel tired and sore after judo but the next day I’m proud of myself because it’s an achievement.

“I feel happier and healthier now and I want to go out more with my friends, I’ve even been motivating them to join the gym.

“This course has helped me to make a new part of my life, a healthier part, and it’s given me the drive to keep going and hope for the future which I didn’t have before.”

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Sarah Smith, chief executive of LinkLiving, said: “Our aim is to help young people break the negative and destructive cycles of behaviour that they may have fallen into because they have never had the support they needed previously to cope with trauma and disadvantage in their life.

“This includes helping young homeless people and those who are coming out of care to develop personal resilience, which involves developing practical and emotional skills.

“We provide truly person-centred support, helping young people to become more employable by offering volunteering opportunities and the care and support they need to move on positively in their lives.

“These young people already show a high level of determination, they have already survived a host of adverse circumstances.

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“Steps To Resilience helps these young people to channel that energy in a positive way by nurturing their qualities and skills to help them make better life choices and a brighter future.”

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