To mark Children’s Mental Health Week (3-9 February), the Children and Young People Services (CYPS) team in Sunderland have been handing out handmade teddies, created by a local craft group, to the young people they support.
The service supports children and young people aged 0-18 years living in South Tyneside and Sunderland who are struggling with mental health difficulties. Steph Hunter, a Care Co-ordinator in the Children and Young People Service, has developed this initiative providing ‘transitional teddies’ for children with emotional difficulties. She explained how the idea came about: “Transitions within school and home life, and between mental health services, can be really daunting for the children we support. We spoke to the young people and asked them what might comfort them through these times, and lots of them talked about how much their teddies had helped them.”
As a result, this week the service teamed up with local crafters to hand out handmade toys to children in their service.
One 18 year-old who had previously been supported by the team explained why she wanted to give other children the comfort of a special toy:
I have been able to get through a hard time in life with the help of my ‘best buddy’, my stuffed monkey called Cheeky Chops. He has been my grounding, my safe place.
Cheeky Chops allows me to conquer my fears with his comfort. I almost felt he was real because of his support. I still hug him now when I am scared; I almost feel his presence, like no-one can hurt me with him there. I think he will be my friend for life. No shame in having a stuffie!
Even though he’s so tatty he means the world to me, ‘cos he got me through such scary things.
Many other people in the service’s ‘EYE Group’ – a group of young people who have used the service and are involved in its running and development – agreed with this. One said, “My transition from primary to secondary school was difficult. I didn’t have a house, a friend or a father figure – but I did have a teddy called Lucy Bear.”
Betty Bolton, who used to work as a Paediatric Nurse with looked-after children, described how she and her friends got involved creating the toys to give out:
I’d seen a post on Facebook about soft toys being given to children with emotional difficulties to help them, and mentioned it to my sister-in-law Val.
Val is a great crafter, and when I told her about this idea, she said she had a whole box of handmade toys that we could give to someone! Steph is a friend of mine, and last year we suggested that she give the teddies out in the Children and Young People Service. This went down really well, and we’re pleased to be doing it again this year.
Val, me and some of my friends have made all sorts of toys this year, from more traditional dollies and teddies to funny-shaped ‘aliens’ – the boys especially seem to love these!
Steph added, “We are so grateful for the toys Betty and the other crafters knit for me, using their own yarn and time. They know how much the children love these teddies, which all have different designs – unique and valuable, just like the children we help!”