Votes needed for teen mental health project

THE Fortitude Project needs you. That's the message from York mum and businesswoman Colleen Horne who is bidding for up to £25,000 to help fund a project to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of teens in York.

"Mental health statistics for young people are absolutely heartbreaking," says Colleen. "One in ten young people suffer from mental health issues – and that's just the reported stuff. That's not OK. If we are not careful, that will become the norm."

Colleen has created a programme, The Fortitude Project, designed to improve young people's mental and physical health as well as encourage them to get fit.

She hopes to create an app by which teens can access the programme alongside a series of workshops in secondary schools to introduce the concept to pupils.

The Fortitude Project has made the shortlist of Aviva Community Awards, putting it in the running for a grant of up to £25,000. To win, the project must amass as many public votes as possible. The deadline is next Tuesday.

"If we can get the whole of York to vote, then that would be good!" says Colleen.

The grant is necessary, says Colleen, because education budgets are being squeezed and schools cannot afford to pay for extras such as this out of their own funds.

And this is at a time when levels of mental health problems among young people are higher than ever, she adds.

"We are screwing up our next generation. Mental health issues in teenagers have risen by 70 per cent in the last 25 years in the UK. The latest Youth Index report from the Prince’s Trust says that wellbeing in young people is at its lowest ever level," says Colleen.

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There are three strands to the 12-week programme, she explains. The first deals with mental strength and includes CBT - cognitive behaviour therapy - to help young people control their runaway thoughts and think in a more positive way, as well as mindfulness, "taking time to calm the mind," says Colleen.

The second tackles emotional strength, where the focus is on building self esteem and resilience. The third is physical: "moving the body to help you get well," says Colleen. Exercise, she says, is a proven way to tackle stress and help people boost their mood.

"These are strategies for feeling incredible every day, against the odds. And I want all our young people to feel like that," says Colleen.

The project has been formulated from Colleen's own journey. Through her company What's Possible, Colleen works in the corporate world, helping businesses and staff find direction and purpose, often working in a one-on-one capacity as a coach.

She found she had to apply these skills to her own life after suffering post natal depression following the birth of her daughter Darcey seven years ago.

"I nearly died in childbirth, " begins Colleen. "I needed an emergency caesarean. My daughter was 9lb 9oz. It was a long recovery and I had flashbacks and an infection afterwards. At the time, I didn't realise how traumatic it had been."

Colleen says her own mental and emotional strength helped get her through, and avoid taking anti depressants. The final piece in the jigsaw of her recovery was getting fit.

"I wasn't interested in getting fit or strong, then a friend invited me to a Rat Race streets circuits session in York. Darcey was about 18 months old and I had no desire to change my body, I just wanted to do something that gave me an hour out of the house to myself."

Colleen loved it and never looked back and now trains regularly at Unit 17c gym, York. "It got me out of the house, connecting with like-minded people and I started achieving things I didn't ever think possible, in terms of physical strength. Then the sense that I can do anything became larger and larger. That is a feeling I would like to spread across the globe."

But first, she will settle for the young people of York.

To vote for The Fortitude Project, visit

It takes a couple of minutes to register then you will be given ten votes to use how you want. You can give all your votes to one project or spread them around among up to ten projects. The deadline is noon next Tuesday. Projects that get enough votes will be entered into a final round, where the winners will be chosen by a panel of judges. Finalists will be announced on November 28 and the winners revealed on January 16.