In this week’s People with Big Hearts feature we hear from Connor McNally, Project Officer with Heart of Midlothian’s charity. He talks about ‘That’s Me!’ project, telling us how it came about and how it helps to make a positive impact on teenagers and young adults.
That’s Me! is a project for young people aged 12 to 18 who previously attended Big Hearts’ Kinship Care After School Club. The group originally known as the Kinship ‘Teenage Group’, rebranded in 2021, Connor said “The young people coming to the group are very low in confidence and are at an age when they are thinking about their image. This is where the name ‘That’s Me!’ came from. They are not being judged at Big Hearts and are accepted for who they are.”
The project was introduced when Big Hearts recognised that young people were suffering with mental health. Meeting once a week, the group do a variety of activities, “Our main priority is to have sessions around mental health awareness and prevention, for example cyber bullying, stress and depression. We work together on strategies on what to do when they are feeling low. It’s working very well, and the young people are really responding to it.”
During the pandemic when they were unable to meet, Connor introduced one-to-one sessions to the project. “The one-to-one work has really taken off, the young people love it! It gives me a great opportunity to get to know them much more. Finding out more about their backgrounds and how I can give them more support.”
The aim of That’s Me! project is to make a positive impact on each young person’s life by providing support on how to best manage their mental health. “Mental health has always been around. We work together on different approaches to help if they are feeling stressed about school, having relationship problems or if they’re not having the best time at home.”
Building friendships is an important factor in this project, “Most of the young people who attend the project are living in a Kinship Care setting. They are from similar backgrounds which helps with isolation and forming friendships.”
Weekly sessions are planned to suit the young people attending, “We have health and wellbeing sessions, they learn how to cook, how to work as a team and also discuss the benefits of exercise to improve mental health.”
Since it began, ‘That’s me!’ has made positive changes to many young people’s lives. One in particular was a young person who was having problems at school with her peers and building relationships. “We started off by doing one-to-one work, this helped build her confidence. She then started attending That’s Me! each week, where she has made many new friends. She will soon be starting college part-time while she completes high school and has a keen interest in working in childcare.”
Big Hearts will soon recruit a Young People’s Support Officer to join the staff team. This is part of a new Community Mental Health Partnership which has been formed by the City of Edinburgh Council to support the mental health of young people. “This will really help us attract more teenagers and young adults from around Southwest Edinburgh, which is brilliant!”
Attending That’s Me! project gives each young person an opportunity to get involved in volunteering in the community. This year we look forward to welcoming them in our volunteer team of Big Hearts’ Little Helpers to help deliver Christmas!
Thank you to Connor for giving us an insight into this amazing project.
– November 21