YASP: Cafe Run by Young People Offers Mental Health Counselling

Young Adults Services and Projects (Yasp) cafe is a cafe and also a drop-in centre and resource for 15 to 25-year-olds. Situated on the busy main street in the Manchester suburb of Levenshulme, Yasp was created by Manchester Mind 12 years ago in response to the high suicide rate among Manchester’s young men and the low take-up of mental health provision among black and ethnic minorities. Its location is ingeniously far away from any potential gang problems but on a busy bus route to and from many of Manchester’s disadvantaged hotspots.

The cafe’s users are a surprisingly wide range of ages and demographics. What unites all of the users is their need for a resource that doesn’t pin them down to a rigorous course or schedule. As Yasp manager Sinead O’Connor explains: “We operate a very tolerant attitude to lateness or absenteeism in the cafe.”

When young people come to Yasp they might come via a word-of-mouth recommendation or they might wander in off the street or they might find it online. Some young people will only ever come to eat or use the free Internet. Whatever happens, they will be subtly made aware of the resources available.

All of the volunteers are aged between 15 and 25, some have used the service before and some, but not all, have had direct experience of mental health problems. Young people with mental health problems struggle with finding work but an astonishing 25% of Yasp service users go on to find paid employment.

“The shop front really works,” says O’Connor, adding: “It tends to be invisible to other people and visible to young people so they just walk off the street.” The service is also starting to get a few referrals from social networking sites, as well as other voluntary sector services, social services, asylum support teams and GPs.

Yasp, which receives funding from the Big Lottery Fund, also delivers presentations in schools (and in the last year has presented to more than 1,000 young people), talking about the common symptoms of mental health problems. The Yasp volunteers are trained to deliver this service. O’Connor says: “There is something very powerful about a young person talking with credibility because they are embodying everything that they are suggesting the young people do. It really makes a difference.” Training for mentors takes place over four short days or three full days in Levenshulme or in Manchester city centre.

Population of focus: 15 to 25-year-olds in the Manchester suburb of Levenshulme (United Kingdom)

Links to resource:

Date: 2001

Organization: Manchester Mind