CARDIGAN youth charity Area 43 has launched an online counselling service aimed at those aged 16-30 throughout Ceredigion.

‘Yma i Chi - Here for You’ has the backing of Cynnal y Cardi and is a free, universal service and is the first scheme of its kind aimed specifically at younger people in the county.

The service was officially launched last week at Llwyncelyn with representatives from the police, voluntary organisations, health service, education, farming groups and local council organisations.

“In helping to improve the emotional and mental health of individuals there will also be economic benefits to their communities,” said Area 43 chief executive Sally Jones.

“For example, a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour, lowering the impact on health resources locally, supporting participants to maintain or gain employment and for those young people living independently, a reduction in homelessness.

“Ceredigion is known to suffer from rural deprivation/isolation allied to a lack of public transport but has had large investments in IT and broadband access which this project will make use of.“

Area 43 has been working with young people from its Pontycleifion base for more than 20 years now, offering varying forms of support including training and counselling.

It also provides the schools-based counselling service in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, employing more than 20 qualified counsellors.

“We believe that an online counselling service will contribute to a happier and healthier Ceredigion with the population more able to take up the opportunities offered and to contribute more fully to their communities,” added Sally.

“Many young people avoid, or find it difficult to access, existing support services for a range of reasons including: unavailability when required; lack of privacy when physically accessing services; low confidence; peer pressure; disabilities; caring responsibilities; hearing impairment etc.

“This new online service will deliver appropriate responses to personal crises and offer strategies and coping skills. We aim to provide access for young people at times that suit their needs and through media that they are comfortable with.

“We are looking at groups including Young Farmers, sports teams and students; those who may have an outward projection of invulnerability but may be socially and rurally isolated. Typically, these groups have a high level of need within a culture that shies away from seeking help.

“There is currently no dedicated online counselling service available to the young people of Ceredigion which means there is little choice for a young person who does not want to, or cannot access, face-to-face counselling via existing schools-based, GP-based or CAMHS services.

“As our service and our counsellors are based in and around Ceredigion, we believe that we have more awareness of the issues and challenges that living and working in this very beautiful, but often isolated, county can bring.”

Ceredigion MP Ben Lake said: “I’m delighted Area 43 has received funding to provide a quality-assured, bilingual counselling service for young people in Ceredigion.

"The added-value of this online service will be the understanding and local knowledge of the counsellors who understand the unique challenges and problems faced by young people here in rural west Wales.”

Contact can be made through the free phone number 0800 0385778 or through the Area 43 website