Tuesday, 16 February 2016 00:00

Bereavement App launched by Nelson's Journey

Written by  Sophie Berry
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Bereavement App launched by Nelson's Journey

Young people in Norfolk affected by bereavement have been involved in designing an app that will help their peers across the UK who are grieving a loved one. The Smiles & Tears app, created by the Youth Panel at Nelson’s Journey is being funded by BBC Children in Need. 

It is estimated that every 22 minutes a child in Britain is bereaved of a parent.* Experiencing bereavement in childhood can be traumatic and impacts greatly on the mental health of young people. For some children the effects of grief can include anxiety, loss of appetite, self-harming and suicidal thoughts, lack of concentration and school refusal.

Lorna Vyse, Senior Child Bereavement Support Worker and Co-Ordinator of the Youth Panel at Nelson’s Journey said: “Our Youth Panel have been involved in every stage of the app’s development, from outlining useful features to choosing its name.  Their input was invaluable at helping us get to the heart of what is most helpful to young people based on their own experiences with grief. BBC Children in Need funding has allowed us to transform the idea of an app into reality, and with it we hope to transform the lives of young people by bringing them comfort when and where they need it.”

The panel is made up of young people, aged between 11 and 17 years old, all of whom have benefitted from support at the charity following the death of a loved one. One of those young people is 13-year-old Owen, who was only 10 when he lost his father to cancer. Of his experiences in helping to create the app he said:  “I received support from Nelson’s Journey following the death of my father.  It was a really difficult time for me – I felt alone, worried and sad. Sometimes I couldn’t really describe to anyone how I was feeling. The support I received from the charity changed my life, and I hope that the app will do the same for others.”   

The Smiles & Tears app simulates some of the proven therapeutic activities available at Nelson’s Journey, including a virtual balloon release and memory jar, while also giving users the option to send gifts to someone they’ve lost in the form of virtual flowers, birthday cards and even aftershave; all recommended by the panel.  The easy to use app also includes a virtual diary and emoji to help children identify how they’re feeling, when words might be difficult to find. 

Drawing on their own experiences of bereavement, the panel sought to create an app that would not only change lives, but might save them too. An interactive link to a helpline on every page of the app provides direct access to free and confidential guidance, meaning young people struggling to cope with their grief have access to on-the-go support anytime/anywhere.

Some children who are bereaved need additional support, and BBC Children in Need contributes significantly to making sure that projects working in this area can make a real difference to these disadvantaged young lives. At present the Charity supports 53 projects across the UK with more than £3.5 million pledged to help young people affected by loss. A BBC Children in Need grant of £6,000 allowed Nelson’s Journey to develop this bereavement tool with help from Norwich-based tech company Selesti.

David Ramsden, Chief Executive of BBC Children in Need said: “We’re very proud to be supporting the work of Nelson’s Journey and know the positive impact it makes. This app takes their work with bereaved children to another level, and we hope it will touch the lives of the hardest to reach across the whole of the country. The support we receive each year makes this possible and we are so grateful to the British Public for their generosity.”

Smiles & Tears is available from Wednesday, 17th February, and is free to download from both the Android Marketplace and iTunes App Store. 

For more details please see www.nelsonsjourney.org.uk

Children and Bereavement

Bereavement in children and young people is more frequent than many people think.

In 2014, Child Bereavement Network estimated that 23,200 parents died in the UK, leaving dependent children (23,600 in 2013). That's one parent every 22 minutes.

In that same year, the group estimated that these parents left behind around 40,000 dependent children aged 0-17 (41,000 in 2013). That's 110 newly bereaved children every day.

About Nelsons Journey

Since 2012, Nelson’s Journey has received over £227,000 in funding to provide a Child Bereavement Services Manager who supports over 80 volunteers and support workers, whilst working directly with children to co-ordinate therapeutic weekends and offer one to one bereavement support during their most difficult times. Every year the charity sees a steep an increase in referrals for bereavement services, with more than 630 young people from Norfolk referred during 2015 alone.

Nelson’s Journey has been operating for 18 years and is a registered charity providing a service for children and young people under 18, living in Norfolk, who have experienced the death of a loved one.  The charity aims to improve the emotional well-being of bereaved children by:  increasing their confidence and self-belief, providing education about the causes of death, enabling families to talk openly about their bereavement.  We also provide opportunities to remember those who have died and help children to express and understand their emotions.

Nelson’s Journey endeavours to ‘Bring back smiles to bereaved children’.

It is currently estimated that 1 in 29 school aged children have experienced the death of a parent or sibling, in Norfolk this equates to approximately 3,825 children.  This figure is significantly higher when pre-school children and 17 year olds are included. 

About BBC Children in Need

The BBC Children in Need Appeal is a charity registered in England and Wales (802052) and Scotland (SC039557) whose aim is to make a positive change to the lives of disadvantaged children and young people across the UK.

BBC Children in Need’s vision is that every child in the UK has a safe, happy and secure childhood and the chance to reach their potential.  We will realise this vision by supporting, promoting and publicising work that addresses the challenges that children and young people face and work that builds their skills and resilience.

We are currently supporting c.2,500 projects that are working with children facing a range of disadvantages for example, poverty and deprivation; children who have been the victims of abuse or neglect or disabled young people.

Last modified on Thursday, 25 February 2016 21:27

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