Teenagers in crisis now have somewhere to turn to after-hours thanks to a new helpline and online support service.
Created with the guidance of other young people, Teen Connect acts as an outlet for 13 to 16-year-olds in Leeds who do not know where to turn.
It has been launched by Leeds Survivor-Led Crisis Service to respond to a rising local demand for support for young people in emotional distress.
Teen Connect receives funding from the NHS and its staff have received specialist training from young people’s service provider The Market Place.
Fiona Venner, chief executive of Leeds Survivor-Led Crisis Service, which also offers crisis services to adults in Leeds, said: “Teen Connect will help young people and their families in times of distress and will prevent them ending up in A&E, as there is nowhere else for them to turn at the moment.”
The confidential service adopts a therapeutic approach and is intended to fill a gap in provision during the evenings.
Ms Venner, who is also a Labour councillor for Kirkstall, said: “We’ve had input from young people themselves. They identified a particular need in the evening when they come home from school and have had a difficult day.”
She said teenagers could feel at crisis point because of problems at school or college, family conflict or bullying, and that acts of self-harm are particularly prevalent among 15-year-old girls in Leeds.
“For any young person it can be easier to talk to someone outside of their situation to get that external perspective,” she said.
Teenagers on the autism spectrum are among those who often end up in A&E with their problems, Ms Venner said, adding that she hopes Teen Connect will help reach teenagers before a crisis gets to that stage.
Teen Connect’s freephone helpline operates from 6pm to 2am each night on 0808 800 121.
Online chat support is available via www.teenconnect.org.uk for up to an hour at a time.
Teenagers can also text 0771 566 1559 to request support.