Manchester’s Unsung Heroes: Woman dedicates 13 years to ‘filling void’ in Bury youths’ mental health care

By Jess Owen

A Bury woman has pledged to help young mental health care patients and aims to change the goalposts and stop oversight on adolescent sufferers.

Inspired by ‘big gaps’ in Bury’s mental health care, Bev Whitworth set up Streetwise 2000.

Her meagre but courageous team made up of Bury residents Lee Angela Duff, Eva Linda and Bolton-born Gemma Phillburn, have been providing mental health care services to young people between the ages of 16 and 25 years since 2000.

Open to anyone, although mainly servicing those from Bury, the group caters for a number of different mental health problems and social issues such as isolation, depression, self-harm, sexual exploitation, the after-effects of bullying, suicide and teenage pregnancy.

Bev said: “Streetwise 2000 is about providing support for those who have fallen through the net, about providing a transition from youth to adulthood.”

The group welcomes and actively sees 75 to 80 young adults a week struggling with mental illness.

Bev added: “Big gaps in mental health care in bury means that 16 to 18 year olds often experience a gap in social services. Streetwise provides an alternative, an alternative where they can be with their own peer group.

“We don’t label mental health, we normalise it. You won’t see mental health emblazoned over the door of Streetwise.”

In efforts to shake off the shackles of negativity which can surround mental health, Streetwise 2000 has implemented a number of unconventional schemes to put the patients back in control.

The ‘Reach Out’ befriending scheme encourages those suffering from mental health problems to get trained up and help others in a similar position or those who are isolated.

This democratic scheme sees young adults, who may ordinarily suffer from anxiety or lack of confidence, find their esteem through entering schools and promoting mental health care.

Hannah Wright, 20, who suffers from depression, has been attending Streetwise 2000 for 18 months and spoke of the impact Bev and her team have had on people her age.

She said: “A lot don’t know where else to go. This place is filling a gap.”

Hannah is part of another scheme introduced by Streetwise 2000, called a Young Persons Forum where members take the lead in the management committee.

She said: “The forum is about supporting less confident members.  The best thing about it is that everyone helps, not just Bev and her team. They have taught us to help each other.”

These young adults therefore play an important role in the everyday running of Streetwise 2000 so in many ways the patients of Streetwise 2000 as well as Bev and her team should be applauded for their proactive efforts in the face of adversity.

Not only do these young adults give back to the mental health community but Bury community as a whole.

They have volunteered at the Kershaw Centre to create an ‘urban garden’ for other community groups to use, such as mother and baby groups and young carers. Bev said of these programmes: “It is all about creating a diversion.”

The group provides music jams, individual and group sessions which deal with conflict resolution and anger management. Another scheme, ‘Helping You To Health’ deals with assertion and confidence building.

Another attendee, Steven Smith, 24 from Radcliffe, is a prime example of the impact that Bev and her team have had and he clearly illustrates the void that Streetwise2000 are filling. Once he turns 26 he will have to find another group to join.

Steven suffers from isolation and anxiety. He said of Streetwise 2000: “I am staying until I the reach the time have to leave.

“I really need to find a place after this which gives you the sense of community and social interaction that Streetwise does.

“It as an understatement to say Streetwise has had a huge impact.”

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