Southwark Council opened its young people’s mental health drop-in centre virtually this week. 

The physical building in Rye Lane, Peckham, called ‘The Nest’, was due to open this week but the opening has been postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.  

The service, currently accessible via online chat, phone or video call, aims to provide mental health support for young people aged 13 to 25.  

Anyone who feels they need help can drop in without waiting for a referral.  

Councillor Jasmine Ali, cabinet member for children, schools and adult social care, said: “During this time of great stress and disruption, we must forge ahead with our efforts to support young people with mental health problems, which are hugely exacerbated by the current health crisis.  

“While we can’t open a physical building as promised this week, we can keep up the momentum and ensure that young people have all the support they need.  

“When the ‘lockdown’ restrictions are lifted and the doors are open, we fully intend to expand the service to support all children and young people under the age of 25.  

“Good mental health is as important as good physical health and children need to get support with their emotional or mental wellbeing when they need it, on demand, without waiting for a referral.” 

The Nest is part of an overall strategy to tackle the mental health problems facing young people in Southwark. 

The council has committed to supporting 100 per cent of children and young people with a diagnosable mental health need – the hope is that the drop-in centre will reduce the need for clinical support down the line.  

Councillor Ali added: “Before lockdown, young people were already suffering in terms of their mental wellbeing, with the pressures of exams, having to care for others, the pressure of social media.  

“And now, when they are missing their friends and social freedom, or maybe feeling that all their hard work for their GCSEs will need catching up on, they will need this more than ever. 

“It was never good enough to say we will only treat some of the children who need mental health services, we want to go further.  

“Prevention and early intervention is key to prevent mental health deterioration.  

“Every child who needs support should receive it, and that’s what we aim to do, working closely, with our health, education, and voluntary sector colleagues.” 

The service will be run in partnership with Groundwork London, which works with disadvantaged young people.  

Graham Parry, director of youth, employment and skills at Groundwork London, said: “All Southwark’s young people deserve safe spaces in real life and on-line where they can talk about their mental health and well-being with people who can really help.  

“Groundwork are excited to be launching The Nest on behalf of Southwark Council, a service that has been designed with young people to offer mental health support in the way they have told us they want it.”