Lucy 'happy and laughing again' after mental health support from Newcastle United Foundation

A teenager who "hit rock bottom" dealing with anxiety and low mood is smiling and laughing again following youth wellbeing support from Newcastle United Foundation.

Diagnosed with juvenile arthritis in childhood, Lucy, 15, required numerous tests and appointments growing up and found her mental health in decline.

A rheumatology nurse caring for Lucy at Newcastle's Great North Children's Hospital was the first to suggest to Lucy's family that spending time with staff from Newcastle United Foundation may help to lift her mood and express how she was feeling.

Thanks to the support from the Great North Children's Hospital Foundation, a fund within Newcastle Hospitals Charity, the Newcastle United Foundation and the hospital have been working together to improve the lives of children and teenagers receiving care at the hospital for more than four years, with dedicated staff members on-site able to provide respite for patients, families and siblings.

And with the launch of the Foundation's new Youth Wellbeing initiative, young people in need of mental health guidance and one-to-one support can take steps to feeling more like themselves physically and mentally.

Lucy said: "As soon as I spoke to the Foundation, it was easier to talk about everything. It feels like I'm just able to open up fully and take to them.

"Through working with the Foundation, I am more laidback now and I get less stressed in situations that I used to get very stressed in.

"We talk about solutions, look at my point of view and also look at others' point of view. It has really helped me to see things in another perspective."

She added: "I used to struggle to be honest about how I felt, but now I like to ask others how they are Sometimes I ask friends to open up to me, and I ask if they're alright. The Foundation has helped me and that made me want to help other people as well."

Lucy's journey to better mental health started while playing golf with the Foundation last year as part of her respite from care, which allowed her to experience something new while socialising with others.

While waiting for golf sessions to restart in the warmer months, Lucy has met with Helen from the Foundation's Health and Wellbeing team weekly for two months at a time when the 15-year-old most needed support.

Lucy's mother, Claire said: "The Foundation has helped Lucy so much. The gold sessions couldn't have come at a better time for Lucy - we were struggling to get her up on a morning during lockdown, she had really hit rock bottom.

"The first session was a real struggle to get Lucy to go, but it helped that she could take her friend Isla. Each week she looked forward to the golf with or without Isla she wanted to go and see if she had improved - a sport that she had never ever took any interest in previously.

"The one-to-one well-being sessions with Helen from the Foundation are a godsend. Lucy does say that she feels she's benefitting more for her mental health with these sessions than she does with other mental health services.

"She has said that it's a breath of fresh air talking to Helen as she feels she listens and understands."

Lucy's mother added her daughter hit "a turning point" following a Newcastle United matchday experience organised by the Foundation at St. James' Park.

Claire added: "Around this time, Lucy had been feeling very low as we've had a lot going on as a family. We all contracted covid in October and Lucy was very sick.

"She enjoyed the day so much, she was buzzing so much after the day. She didn't stop talking about it. From then on, she was a different person - happy again, laughing, engaging with her sister. The Foundation has brought our girl back and we thank them so much for that."

Launched at the beginning of the 2021/22 season, the Foundation expanded its existing Health and Wellbeing provision to offer tailored mental health support for children, teenagers and young adults.

Through funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, the programme allows for young people in contact with the Foundation to be referred to dedicated staff members able to offer a safe and comfortable space to discuss their feelings and how to work towards better mental health.

Lucy is a wonderful young woman and it's an honour to work with her - seeing her confidence grow and her true self shining through is fantastic.

- Helen McDermott, Mental Wellbeing Practitioner, Newcastle United Foundation.

Helen McDermott, Mental Wellbeing Practitioner at Newcastle United Foundation, said: "From where we started, Lucy has made incredible progress through her own hard work, and she has definitely come out of her shell. Now Lucy can talk about her future in great depth and all of the exciting plans that she has going forward.

"It's a pleasure to have the opportunity to make a positive impact on young people's lives through the Foundation and support from the Great North Children's Hospital Foundation and The National Lottery Community Fund."

Duncan Nicholson, Head of Regional Funding for the North East and Cumbria at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: "We're delighted to hear of Lucy's progress - a young person who is now in a much better place because of the mental health support from Newcastle United Foundation.

"Thanks to National Lottery players, we're able to fund important projects like this, enabling more young people to get the help they so vitally need to improve their mental wellbeing."

Jon Goodwin, Head of Grant Programmes at Newcastle Hospitals Charity, manages the Great North Children's Hospital Foundation grant and was delighted to hear about Lucy's progress.

He said: "Our funding is all about enhancing care for our patients and working in partnership with local charities is an important way that we do this.

"Our longstanding support of the Newcastle United Foundation means that they are able to offer long-term, ongoing, support to patients like Lucy, improving their mental health as well as physical wellbeing. It's great to see that other funders recognise their great work too."

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