Celebrity supporter, comedian Deirdre O’Kane told The Irish Post: “Sarah is clearly a great asset to the Brent Centre for Young People, having worked in the mental health sector for 12 years. Sarah is driven by the influence that the right treatment and attention can have on adolescents, and she believes that these vulnerable years are absolutely crucial in terms of the mental health issues a person can develop. I am absolutely humbled when I think about the positive effect Sarah has had on many young people’s lives and livelihoods — she’s amazing.”
Sarah Fielding is a Specialist Mental Health Worker at the world-renowned Brent Centre for Young People. She is also Executive Assistant to the charity’s Clinical Director and CEO Dr Maxim De Sauma.We joined the pair at the north London venue where they provide vital adolescent psychotherapy services for young people suffering distress,worry and a range of other issues.
Tell us about the charity and your role:
“The centre was founded by Dr Moses Laufer, a psychoanalyst who believed that psychological interventions should be accessible to young people, in 1967. It was also created to provide analytic psychotherapy for people who would not be able to afford private practice. Currently we see roughly 500 young people from across London every year, aged from roughly 14-24, and our therapists offer talking therapy to help them understand their anxieties and the symptoms they present. These symptoms can range from young people who have strained family relationships or are struggling at school to those who are self-harming, have eating disorders or even suicidal tendencies.”
What services does the charity provide for Irish children?
“We offer short and long-term individual intervention adolescent exploratory therapy to the children we see. We also offer group and family therapy sessions as well as outreach work with young offenders and schools in the area. In a typical quarter we have up to 30 Irish children on our caseload, across our projects, although that’s probably under-representative as many of our young people are likely second, third or fourthgeneration Irish who don’t identify as such. We offer a series of consultations where a young person can come and talk about what is troubling or distressing them to help them understand the problem and how to deal with it.We provide services that are not too claustrophobic but support development. Good intervention at the right time can work to help them find a solution to their situations.”
How does IYF funding support your work?
“Our IYF funding supports all the work we do with Irish young people across our projects. It’s very exciting to have this support as it allows us the flexibility to engage Irish people whenever we find them — in our schools projects, through referrals, or in the local community. It allows us to provide these Irish adolescents with treatment we otherwise might not have, as our general funding has been cut so dramatically in recent years. Originally we were 100 per cent funded by the local council. That went to zero funding in 1990 and we have relied on fundraising and grants such as the IYF contribution ever since. Currently if we come across a young Irish person who needs our help we don’t have to turn them away. It’s very helpful and they don’t need to live in Brent either.We can take Irish people from the wider community thanks to the IYF grant.”
How important is the work you do for children you serve?
“The young people that need our help are coming with increasingly complex problems — the challenge is to be here for them. Since the government cuts kicked in there are no NHS provisions offering these series in Brent. If we were to close it would be a disaster for these children, 80 per cent of whom present to us with depression. It may be more than one symptom but depression is largely the cause. We have suicidal kids, self-harmers, teenagers who hate their body, are struggling to eat or eat too much, have difficulties with friends, relationships, sexuality, school or employment. If we were not here they would have no treatment and the potential consequences are vast — from suicides to broken family relationships, having problems in school and becoming adults with mental health problems. Much of what we do here is preventative of having a mental health illness in adulthood, which is chronic and much harder to treat. We are trying to stop these conditions in their tracks and push people in the right direction because we know such intervention at the right time works.”
What does it mean to your organisation to be nominated for the IYF Hibernian Hero Award?
“It’s great to be recognised in the IYF award nominations. The more people know the kind of work being done here and the importance of it for these young people the better. It is also important to highlight the need to provide these services for the Irish community in Britain because of its history here, the pattern of migration and the experience of the Irish in London over the years. It’s really important that a culturally-sensitive, positive place to support young Irish people exists and to get funding to do that in areas like Kilburn and Brent is really important as it reflects the community that we work with.”