‘Please support charity that saved my life’

Sarah Thomas, a client of Off The Record
Sarah Thomas, a client of Off The Record

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A CHARITY which is under threat of closure ‘saved the life’ of a young woman.

Nine months ago Sarah Thomas, 20, was so low she contemplated suicide, but said the help provided by Off The Record got her through it.

The charity, which has centres in Portsmouth and Havant, provides free and confidential counselling to young people aged between 11 and 25.

But it could close unless funds are urgently found within the next few months, following a massive reduction in funding from Hampshire County Council and the complete withdrawal of funding by Portsmouth City Council.

Sarah said: ‘I had to leave drama school in Manchester because I was unwell.

‘At that point I was at rock bottom. I had taken an overdose before and I was getting to that point again.

‘But, with the help of Off The Record, my GP and the recovery clinic in Southampton, I have managed to get through it.

‘Off The Record are stopping people from doing things like that. I said to my mum at New Year that I did not know if I was going to make it through 2013.

‘Off The Record made 2013 possible for me.’

Sarah, who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition, will be fundraising with her family for the charity.

According to Comic Relief, over the last 25 years rates of anxiety and depression amongst young people have increased by 70 per cent.

And research suggests that between one in 12 and one in 15 young people self-harm.

Theresa Ward, who has been in charge of the charity for more than 20 years, said there would be no-one to help people like Sarah if the charity closed, because young people do not want to, or find it very difficult, to get counselling through the NHS.

‘At Off The Record we are seeing increasing numbers of young people who are self-harming and experiencing depression,’ said Theresa.

‘Almost all the young people who contact us have low self-esteem and little self-confidence.

‘The value of counselling and talking therapy is well-documented.

‘Good mental health enables young people to gain 
in confidence, make healthy choices and go on to achieve and become contributing members of society.

‘Off The Record helps the councils to save hundreds of thousands of pounds each year for each young person who doesn’t enter the youth justice system, doesn’t need psychiatric help or become reliant on benefits.’

The charity is run by scores of volunteers and there is a waiting list of more than 100 young people they are working hard to see.

All five permanent members of staff have been put on notice of redundancy and £70,000 is urgently needed to keep the charity going.

You can help by doing your own fundraising or donating at justgiving.com/off-the-record1.