World Mental Health Day: An open letter to St Albans Youth Talk

Hugh Baillie-Lane wrote an open letter to Youth Talk in St Albans thanking them for their support. P

Hugh Baillie-Lane wrote an open letter to Youth Talk in St Albans thanking them for their support. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

A man who was helped by the counselling service Youth Talk in St Albans has written a letter thanking them for turning his life around, and urging others to pledge their support for the charity.

To all of the staff at Youth Talk,

I want to say thank you to all of you for the support you've given me, and I wanted to do so in an open letter like this as I want to share the amazing work you do with our community. Everyone in St Albans needs to know what a fantastic service we all have on our doorstep.

For those reading this who are not aware, Youth Talk is a local, confidential counselling service for young people aged 13-25 who live, work, or study in St Albans and district. They help young people across the district needing support with their mental health and emotional wellbeing.

I am shocked that when I mention the name of Youth Talk to family or friends, many have often not heard of it. I find this particularly worrying among my peer group, or amongst my peer groups' parents. We have all engaged with education and youth services throughout the city, so for people not to know about the service is deeply disturbing.

There has been some fantastic work done by local schools, the councils and Youth Connexions and that information is much more freely available and service more actively advertised than they were even 10 years ago.

However, we must make the most of the wave that mental health services are riding in the public consciousness at the moment; we have got to secure a deeper, more prosperous and productive bond between the service and the community.

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I have a deep and profound connection with Youth Talk. I have been a supporter and campaigner for the charity, and most recently a service user who has benefitted from your services.

The sense of total and utter relief and of hope that I experienced when I got the appointment for my first session was immeasurable - my chink of light in so much darkness.

After a difficult few years personally, I sought professional help in the summer of 2018. Though outwardly I pretended all was well, I needed help. There is no exaggeration in stating that my therapist helped me to save my own life.

I don't mean this phrase in its grimmest sense, but in the sense that she helped me to understand how my brain functions and how and why I react in different situations. Through our sessions I have learned how to understand the complexity of my own lived experiences, and how they have shaped me in all kinds of ways.

It is not hyperbolic to say that I feel like a different person to how I was a year ago. I am more resilient, more able to cope with life's peaks and troughs, and have a much better emotional and personal literacy.

I've worked hard on my mental capacity to cope, to improve my wellbeing, and become much better at taking a breath. I feel about six inches taller because of it.

I will always be in debt to my therapist, and to Youth Talk. Everything and anything I build in my life will be based on the foundations I have prepared there.

As we all know, mental health services are increasingly under strain, and St Albans is no different. Fortunately for our community, Youth Talk has weathered the storm so far, but we cannot rest on our laurels. Fifty per cent of mental health issues will have started to present by the age of 14. The support that Youth Talk can offer to young people between the ages of 13-25 is utterly vital for families across the district.

However, for a community service to be able to provide for the community, we as a community have a responsibility too - services cannot exist in a vacuum. If you can support Youth Talk on a one off basis, or indeed if you can do so regularly, you will be helping young people across the district, like me, whose lives can be helped.

Everyone deserves that chance - for many, Youth Talk is that chance.

I am running the Manchester Half Marathon on Sunday, October 13 in aid of Youth Talk with the aim of raising over £1,000 - the average cost to the charity of a therapy for a single young person.

To sponsor Hugh go to