Group pic volunteers and Sianne

This World Mental Health Day, Development Manager Sianne Morgan explains how youth volunteering work across Gwent is being enhanced by a new accreditation

Volunteering Matters in Gwent supports young people in a variety of ways, from our SAFE project which seeks to improve the personal safety and sexual health of young women and men with learning difficulties, to Mind Matters which aims to improve the mental health and positive wellbeing of young people.

This World Mental Health Day we are proud to announce that we are becoming an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) informed organisation.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic experiences occurring before the age of 18 that directly harm a child. Experiences such as sexual, physical or mental abuse, or being raised in a household where domestic violence or alcohol or drug abuse is present. Children who experience ACEs are more likely to adopt health-harming behaviours, which can lead to mental health illnesses and chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease in later life. Public Health Wales research also evidences the association of ACEs with poor educational outcomes and increased risk of criminal behaviours.

But there are things that we and other youth organisations can do: ACEs could be prevented through better professional awareness, evidence informed interventions and effective pathways into additional support. ACE informed organisations are designated safe places to work or access and recognise relationships as a key tool for wellbeing, support and change.

A staff member from Gwent who has completed the “train the trainer” course for youth organisations will now train all our relevant staff, peer mentors and key partners in Wales. Our hope is for all staff to become change champions, sharing and embedding knowledge about ACEs and their effects across all of our youth projects to better equip staff and volunteers to support young people.

Adopting this strength-based approach to working with young people – promoting empowerment, choice and control really can make a difference. When working with a challenging individual we don’t want to be asking ourselves WHY a young person is behaving badly, but rather WHAT has happened to that young person to make them behave that way? We are delighted to be trailblazers in our ACE Accreditation, and hope to enhance our delivery and support, and outcomes, for young people in Gwent as a result.