A CHARITY offering mental health support to young people has launched free weekly drop-in sessions at a city centre café.

Winchester Youth Counselling is running the wellbeing sessions at The South Downs Social in Kings Walk on Wednesdays from 4-5pm.

The drop-ins are open to anyone aged 11 to 25 and no booking is required meaning young people can get immediate support.

Male and female counsellors are on hand and there are activities such as painting, chess and mindful games as well as free drinks on offer to help visitors de-stress.

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester Youth Counselling at The South Downs SocialWinchester Youth Counselling at The South Downs Social (Image: Katy Seymour)

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Rose Milford, deputy clinical lead, said: “It’s great that it’s something we can offer straight away whereas people might have to wait for a regular appointment. This is a safe, welcoming place to go and people are around to speak to. Some might have had their initial consultation and be on waiting list but this is always available.

“Nothing beats face-to-face contact. Having activities that can break the ice means you don’t even have to speak. It’s really beneficial and gets people off their phones too."

Hampshire Chronicle: Counsellor Iona setting upCounsellor Iona setting up (Image: Katy Seymour)

Iona Stevenson, counsellor, said: “If parents or young people are feeling like they don’t know where to turn and keep hitting dead ends, it’s somewhere to come where they will be heard and where they can confide in someone. It’s a place to escape the stresses of school or home life.

“The key thing is it is about breaking down barriers and some perceptions about what counselling is. Often people think it’s going to be white walls and very clinical so with this they can come and meet the counsellors to get to know us and what we’re offering better.

“Parents can have a coffee downstairs or young people can come on their own. For some it can be nerve racking about whether they will see someone they know but they all have something in common in needing something different in their life – somewhere to escape it all.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Counsellors Iona and OwenCounsellors Iona and Owen (Image: Katy Seymour)

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Katy Seymour, youth engagement lead, said: “We have lots of resources out like mindful games, crochet and arts. We’re listening out to what people want.

“People can get that immediate support and early intervention which is crucial. It’s almost like a halfway house where people can meet the counsellors before deciding if they want to come to us. We also have leaflets available so that people can find out what support is on offer in the area.

“The atmosphere at the café is really warm, relaxing and calm and the staff have been really friendly. The hot chocolates are amazing and people are loving the activities on offer. It’s somewhere young people can come on their own, away from school, where they can have some down time.

“We could take the wellbeing walk-ins elsewhere if the need grows and take it to more hard-to-reach places.”

The team said they are incredibly grateful to Neil Wyatt and South Downs Social for welcoming them in and providing a relaxing environment for the drop-ins.

Sessions are held upstairs at the café in Kings Walk every Wednesday from 4-5pm. For more information go to winchesteryouthcounselling.org/what-we-offer/wellbeing-walk-in/.