I became aware of S.M.I.L.E whilst looking for support to help overcome my depression and anxiety as they were severely affecting my day to day life. It was my mum who originally contacted them via email to find out if they could help me. Since that first point of contact S.M.I.L.E have been nothing but understanding, supportive and welcoming. Declan replied to my mum the same day she emailed encouraging me to fill out the referral for so he could begin helping me.
Once Declan had my details I was invited for an initial meeting early the same week. Attending this was particularly difficult as I was unsure if I would be comfortable discussing my problems with anyone. The room they use is small and welcoming and Declan has always created an atmosphere where I feel I can divulge my thoughts without fear of judgement since I first met with him.
I have attended sessions with Declan weekly where I am free to discuss any topic I feel I need to. At my sessions Declan allows me to lead the conversation in whatever direction I need to helping me to process my emotions in my own time. The S.M.I.L.E office is my sanctuary for the duration of my sessions and if I don’t want to talk as much at one session it is reassuring to know there is someone to sit with me when I need it. The great thing about S.M.I.L.E is that they always cater to me as an individual- Declan comes up with ways for me to understand or process my thoughts and provides me with coping mechanisms that appeal to both my personality and learning style. If I am having difficulty with any challenges during the week I know I can always contact S.M.I.L.E and they will endeavour to help me overcome them by speaking to me either by email/phone or by arranging an additional session.
The progress I have made since I started attending S.M.I.L.E is remarkable. With them I have a safe place to go to not only release my emotions but also to discuss them and, ultimately, move past them so I can live a healthy life. Declan is giving me the tools I need to recover and I have no doubt that without S.M.I.L.E’s support I would not have reached the stage I am at today.
The work Declan and S.M.I.L.E are doing is completely invaluable in my community. They are providing a lifeline for those that need it most and may not otherwise receive it. I cannot emphasise enough the positive impact they are having on myself, and will surely be having on the lives of everyone they are helping.
I was first made aware of S.M.I.L.E through a conversation with Declan. That day I was told by my GP that I was in fact suffering from anxiety which was brought on through recent events in my life.
I approached Declan to see if he knew anybody offering a service for people suffering from anxiety, this was when he informed me of S.M.I.L.E. For me that was the toughest part approaching someone for help. Thanks to Declan he got me to fill out a self-referral form and I began seeing him later that week.
My first session was the most difficult of all my sessions as I didn’t know what to expect and I don’t like discussing my problems/feelings. Until I walked through the door at S.M.I.L.E I was virtually unable to live a normal life, I had to give up my dancing which I dedicated all my time to, my volunteering, my friends, shopping etc.
This was horrendous and brought me right down, but since entering that door on my first session Declan was amazing, so welcoming and understanding. I wasn’t the easiest to get to open up due to feeling that my problems weren’t bad enough for me to require help.
A few weeks past and I became confident enough that Declan was there to listen and help and that’s exactly what he done! Nothing was too big or small for him to help with! We spoke through my problems and discussed ways to enable me to come over my anxiety as I became more and more adamant for me to beat it!
Each week I set my self a new realistic goal so when I appeared at my sessions I had something to be proud off and thanks to Declan within 14 sessions I was feeling my sort of normal again! Back dancing, shopping, going out but most importantly living a normal 19 years old life!
Declan was so supportive and provided me with tools to help me get over my anxiety and learn to put myself first instead of fixing everyone else’s problems first before my own!
Without the service that S.M.I.L.E offer I wouldn’t be in the place I am today, being the happy 19 year old I used to be or living the amazing life I am now and for that I will never be done thanking S.M.I.L.E. I know they are such an amazing organisation and provide so much help and support to many others, I know that everyone that they help feel so grateful.
Thought I would drop an email to you because I think you perhaps don’t get too many notes of appreciation and you deserve them big time. It is important for parents of children or adolescents, to understand that this is a vital service and one that nourishes and benefits their children.
After many years of trauma, my son is thriving and making positive steps in all parts of his life since his time with you at SMILE. I would like to thank you for the part you have played in that.
It was a delight on the drive home today. The passenger seat was occupied by a happy, bright, laughing and fun teenager. I was informed that you were cool.
I guess your job may have lots of upset and bits that could perhaps make you feel a bit down. Well here is to the parts that make you feel good and realise it is all worth it.
You are giving my son what looks like hope. Dreams. And possibly the ability to believe in himself. He has been making headway for a while now, but he is positively changing for the good in front of me. With huge nods at being a ‘normal’ teenager and typical boy, but without so much gloom and despair as there was. Your approach is light years away from whatever else he has experienced. I am excited for his future now…
Basically, keep doing what you do. Thanks so much for helping my boy. Thanks so much for assisting me in what was a very dark unsupportive world.
All the children / adolescents / teens (and the extended families that it helps) that may have dealings with you are so fortunate. Thank goodness for SMILE!
I salute you!
A Very Happy Parent
I just want to say huge thanks for everything you have done for Michael. He is a totally different person now. Before Christmas when I started to bring him to see you, his confidence was so low and he was so anxious about most things. He worried all the time about everything, his sleeping was terrible and was up most nights crying.
Now he still has wee blips but most of the time he is happy and confident. His sleeping has improved loads and everything is going good at school. He now feels confident to cope when he feels a bit low or anxious.
I feel like he has grown up over the last few months to. When we were coming home yesterday he said he feels like it’s an achievement.
Thanks very much again
I found Declan and Smile Counselling at 4am one Saturday morning after returning from the hospital. Sarah had taken an overdose and was sent home after being informed that CAMHS would send out a letter.
Watching the after effects of Sarah taking an overdose, her regressing back to her childlike self and being offered no help was one of the scariest moments I’ve ever had to deal with as a mother. I had nowhere to turn and no idea what to do. | spent the next hour looking on google to find services near me. I came across Smile Counselling by accident and having read the information on their website and the testimonials from other parents and patients, felt this service would maybe be able to help Sarah.
I literally wrote every detail about the previous 4 months of Sarah life there and then. How she was found in the art classroom in the foetal position crying her eyes out and effectively not functioning. How I had to take her to A&E to seek help from the on call psychiatrist and was told I would receive a letter. How I spent the next 4 months trying to get her to go outside, spend time with her family and talk, let alone go to school.
I received an email from Declan at 8.30 am, asking me to fill in a self-referral form for Sarah. I completed it and by 9.30 I had an email with an appointment for the same week.
When we met Declan he instantly put us both at ease. He took both of us into his room and explained exactly what was going to happen, what we could expect from him and his services, and what he would expect from us. Sarah and I were both happy and Sarah signed the contract. The contract was nothing to worry about. It basically said that everything would be confidential.
I was then asked to leave. For me this was a good thing. Sarah hadn’t left my side for 4 months. Being able to have someone there just for her, who she could talk to and cry with was a blessing for her. She was able to tell Declan anything she wanted without judgement or fear of upsetting anyone.
Initially our appointments were weekly. Sarah would look forward to going to see Declan as she felt that having Declan there for her and talking to him was helping her see the bigger picture. She was able to talk through things and Declan always helped her see things clearer.
During our time with Declan and Smile, Declan has helped Sarah by pointing us in the right direction of any benefits she may be entitled to. He has also helped her by contacting Shona at Skills development Scotland to see if Shona could help Sarah by offering her some courses specifically for children with issues at school.
Over the last 18 months Declan has been there for Sarah through good times and bad. He helped her come to terms with her Autism Diagnosis and deal with the death of her Great Grandad. He also helped her by gently encouraging her to try and find a hobby of sorts which she has done with Ice Skating. Declan would also work Sarah’s appointments with her needs at the time. He would increase her appointments when she felt she needed him and decrease them when she was feeling better.
Declan has helped Sarah massively by allowing her to express her feelings and helping her learn to manage her Autism, meltdowns, inability to manage her emotions and the feelings of being overwhelmed. This has helped her massively with her reduction in suicidal thoughts and Sarah managing to cope with the outside world. Sarah knows that we can contact Declan should we need him again and that gives her peace of mind, knowing he’s here if she needs him.
Sarah still has a long way to go. She is still unable to go out on her own but by finding Declan and Smile Counselling that Saturday morning; Sarah got the help she so badly needed.
From a mother’s point of view, I genuinely believe we would not have Sarah with us if we hadn’t found Declan. Declan has changed both our lives. He has helped us both cope with daily life and he has helped us both learn how to deal with Sarah’s meltdowns and that life can be difficult but manageable.
Declan, I want to thank you from the bottom of both our hearts. You’ve made such a difference to both our lives. Sarah is a totally different person from when you first met her. Although she does still need a lot of help, she is able to cope with life now and that’s because of you and your wonderful service. The highest praise I can give you is that I’ve recommended your service to other people who may desperately need your help.
From me personally, you’ve found me my daughter and for that I can never thank you enough.
Forever in your debt,
Anna and Sarah
I can’t thank S.M.I.L.E enough for the progress my child has made since attending counselling there. He has been anxious and suicidal after bullying at school. S.M.I.L.E has allowed him to explore these feelings in a place which will not judge him. He can be completely honest because no-one there is linked to his situation so there is no pressure to hide things to save other people’s feelings. He has come on massively and has opened up at home because he now has the words which he didn’t have before. The S.M.I.L.E team are so lovely and put you and your child at ease. Thanks from both of us.
A note of appreciation from Ann, mother of Andrew…..
Andrew was unfortunate to experience verbal bullying at school which manifested itself into social anxiety. This made him withdraw from mainstream school, all activities and spending time with friends. He wasn’t functioning and thriving the way he should have been. As a parent I was at a loss and at my wits end with worry.
Our GP had suggested that in time he would grow out of it. This did not resonate with me and I knew there must be more help and support out there. I came across S.M.I.L.E counselling and knew from the first conversation I had with Declan that he could help. This gave me hope in my heart that Andrew was going to get the help that he needed and deserved.
It’s been a slow journey but there has been progress every step of the way. Andrew was able to discuss with Declan, on a two-weekly basis, confidentially, about how he was feeling and explore different ways of dealing with his feelings in a non-judgemental way. Declan also signposted me to Skills Development Scotland which then lead onto a referral being forwarded to a West Lothian Council group called More Choices More Chances (MCMC). Andrew got assigned a key worker and things have continued to progress over this past year.
He has just completed his level three stage of his activity agreement with Street League which has helped him gain confidence through group work while participating in sport. Andrew has completed a two-week work placement in GAP which has enabled him to gain confidence in dealing with the public. He has applied for college and looking at part time work in the meantime.
I can see the gradual positive change in my son and will be forever grateful to Declan for picking up my call. I’d just like to give a huge pat on the back to all the guys at S.M.I.L.E counselling. Declan and his team became part of my 16-year-old sons anxiety journey when there was no other help, direction or support from any other services that I was aware of. Without your help and guidance, I don’t know what Andrew’ future would’ve held. The service you provide is vital for young people who are still trying to understand themselves and find their way in the world with acceptance. I believe if more youths of today were able to reach out to the services you offer there would be less drug and alcohol related issues.
I have recommended S.M.I.L.E counselling to friends who have also experienced family members with similar circumstances to Andrew.
I’m doing the Edinburgh Kilt Walk in aid of S.M.I.L.E counselling to give a little back to your charity funded organisation and look forward to wearing my t shirt with pride.
You guys are worth your weight in gold.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. xx
I think this is a service that could be very valuable, many YP miss out on services due to the 9-5 Mon-Fri offered and many vulnerable Young People do not live in a 9-5 world. Acknowledging trauma, chaos and vulnerability amongst YP is a must and to have services that they may engage with at times when they are able to and when no one else is around for them. Huge access to service for out of hours fantastic concept and much needed.
As capacity building officer at VSGWL I have been involved with SMILE since early 2015 when approached to discuss some general ideas and asked to offer support to the development of the service. The level of professionalism was evident from the start and Declan is a highly skilled practitioner who has carried out a wide ranging scope of information gathering and due diligence in setting up the organisation. He has a highly motivated, skilled and professional board and his enthusiasm and knowledge will be invaluable. The need of this sort of service is clear and he has researched the subject deeply and effectively. I have no hesitation to recommend his service and work to date.
Young people who are in the 11 – 24 age group are often faced with additional challenges in accessing services as they do not “fit” within children’s or adults services neatly. The number of young people reporting issues with their mental wellbeing has risen and been well publicised within research provided by childline. Childline report that they are contacted by a child (under 18 years) every 6 minutes. The same report also recognises the challenge that older young people experience in accessing support around their mental well being. This evidences that having more support available to young people to explore their mental wellbeing can only be a positive step to offering choice about where, how and when young people are seen within services. Young people who are in the most deprived areas continue to be most at risk of developing poor mental health outcomes. The Health Improvement Team would offer support to the SMILE service by offering staff opportunities to engage in training around, health inequalities, food and health, physical activity and mental well being.
I have been working in West Lothian for two and a half years now working with young people 16-19 who are the most disengaged and trying to get them back into training / employment. Through my time working in West Lothian with these young people it has become increasingly clear that mental health in young people in becoming a growing concern year on year. This is becoming a major barrier from them moving on in their lives and being able to cope with the challenges life will continue to throw at them. In my experience waiting lists are now between 12-18 months for mental health support for young people in West Lothian. When I heard about S.M.I.L.E Counselling and the approach they aim to take by making their service client led and working around their timescales etc I thought it was excellent and just what we need. Delivery of an outreach service evenings and weekends would be invaluable to these young people in West Lothian and help break down the barriers that they face so they can truly make the most of themselves and fulfil the full potential that I and other workers know they possess. I know that the delivery and presence of such a service in the area would make things much more manageable for young people and in turn have a domino effect on those around them i.e. family, friends and even local community. I fully endorse S.M.I.L.E Counselling and what they aim to provide and can say that this service cannot come quick enough to the area.
From our perspective at Skills Development Scotland, the service SMILE proposes to provide will be invaluable. Our post-school team who support the 11-24 age group are increasingly familiar with clients suffering social anxiety, depression and other forms of emotional distress. To them, the chance of someone being there to listen and provide support through counselling could be the lifeline that makes all the difference.
We were particularly keen to hear the service will be offered free to users and based around their availability and geographical location (rather than the other way around). Furthermore, the proposal that SMILE will provide support for individuals in the evenings as well as weekends further adds to its convenience for clients. We also felt the commitment to meet clients within 4 weeks (or on the same day if the individual is experiencing self-harm / suicidal thoughts) was admirable.
We definitely feel there is a gap for this type of service. Although there is currently counselling available for certain groups (if you look hard enough) there tends to be countless limitations on who is eligible and also when/where the service can be accessed. This is what is so appealing about the SMILE proposal. The only criteria is users are aged between 11-24 and suffering emotional hurt and pain. From speaking with colleagues within SDS and partners throughout West Lothian there is an overwhelming sense that the SMILE counselling outreach service would go some way to filling the void.
SDS would be delighted to work alongside SMILE in partnership for the good of our clients and sincerely hope this project proves to be a success. The benefits SMILE could bring to 11-24 year olds suffering from emotional hurt and pain would be multiple. Firstly for the improved mental health and well-being of this client group, but additionally, the increased confidence the service would impart helping those individuals get their lives back on track and encouraging them to take up work, training or learning opportunities to enhance their lives.
BLES Training – The need for SMILE Counselling
BLES Training is a voluntary charitable organisation that delivers a dedicated training programme for 11 to 24 year old young people in West Lothian. We provide support / training in core, personal, life, employability and occupational skills, with the opportunity to gain a qualification. We look at the whole person, not just qualifications, and have a clear commitment to help progress all young people to access occupational skills and a job.
The majority of the young people which join us come from troubled backgrounds and more often than not, did not engage with school. We work closely with a number of agencies in the West Lothian area to provide the necessary support for our young people but over the years, the support which is needed on a personal/life basis has gradually been eroded. We work with Adult Basic Education who provide support for those needing help with reading, writing & calculations and West Lothian Drug & Alcohol Service (WLDAS) who provide support for those needing who want help to stop smoking, whether it is drugs or tobacco, and help to stop drinking. We did partner with Penumbra who provided the personal/life support via a counsellor who came to us one day per week however this service stopped when funding was withdrawn.
This leaves a huge gap in the support that our young people need as the majority of our young people live very troubled home lives with very little, or no, support from family members. Many also come from homes where there is very little financial support which means they often have no money for lunch or food. BLES provide a daily breakfast for all our trainees and also ensure that no-one goes without a lunch.
We come into contact with young people who have problems that they need to talk to someone about on a regular basis however none of the staff at BLES are qualified counsellors, although staff have attended the ASSIST training. We do encourage our young people to come and talk to us if they feel the need to speak to someone and have what we call “Jean’s chair” which is a chair in the admin office and if someone feels they just need a break if things are getting on top of them, they can come through and sit with Jean and either talk if they want to or just get some peace and quiet.
This is not enough however as some of the needs of our young people are outwith the support which BLES can provide for them and are not qualified to deal with. There is nowhere in West Lothian for these young people to go to and get the support that they need. We have attempted to contact various agencies to get support however waiting lists can be as long as 18 months which is totally unacceptable especially when the young person is needing help NOW and may have a suicide plan already in place.
I have attached short case studies of three young people who we have dealt with in the last two months alone. Let me assure you there are many, many more young people like these which makes the need for an outreach bespoke counselling service essential in West Lothian.
I am a More Choices More Chances Keyworker for West Lothian Council. I am based in a local secondary school where my caseload is comprised of the hardest to reach pupils who are at risk of becoming ‘NEET’ when they leave school. These clients often have many complex barriers which they have to overcome in order for them to progress onto a positive destination. These personal issues often require a professional counselling intervention with a rapid response. However, at the moment there is a 12 month waiting list for counselling services in West Lothian. This is not responsive to the needs of clients who need immediate help, support and counselling S.M.I.L.E counselling is a much needed and valuable resource in West Lothian. A free and easy to access counselling service for vulnerable young people who are suffering from a range of issues is paramount for their emotional wellbeing. The outreach service being offered is also a very important aspect as many clients are unable to self-travel and also public transport routes are not always accessible especially from the most rural areas of the county where clients may be socially isolated. Therefore, for professionals to travel to their communities is very important. Likewise, the ability for these professionals to see clients in evenings is another huge advantage as many of these clients are often sleeping through the day and awake in the evenings. I feel that S.M.I.L.E and the More Choices More Chances team could work in partnership to support clients overcome emotional barriers and become empowered so that they can then move forward onto positive destinations with much more self confidence and assertiveness. This will have a profound effect on clients in the short term but will also support vulnerable young people in West Lothian to progress having a positive effect on the long term social and economic landscape of the county. All in all, I feel that there is a gap in West Lothian for this type of immediate and flexible counselling service for vulnerable young people. The service is something in which our team has sought out for a number of years and one in which we will access readily.