42nd St have been promoting good mental health in children for forty years. The Covid crisis and its toll on mental health means they have increasing commitments at a time when their funding is uncertain.

Austerity has hit public services hard in Manchester and left vulnerable people unsupported. Many community groups and volunteers are stepping up to fill the void created by these funding cuts that hit those most in need the hardest. The charity 42nd Street is one of these organisations, helping people with poor mental health get the support they need. The growing mental health crisis due to Covid-19 means their work is increasingly needed to help young people through the pandemic.

Research carried out by the Prince’s Trust has revealed that during the pandemic more than a quarter of young people have felt unable to cope with life and nearly a third had panic attacks due to the Covid crisis. The research also showed that more than a third felt their education was “going to waste”, with the proportion being significantly higher for those from a poorer background.

Forty years ago, having identified gaps in the type of mental health support available to young people, 42nd Street Charity was formed to help fill those gaps. The Charity’s mission is to support young people aged 11-25 years across Greater Manchester with their emotional well-being and mental health. They promote choice and creativity within their services by using a combination of youth work, social work, creativity and therapeutic support.

The Charity aims to provide early help as it can take up to 10 years for a young person to go from showing signs of mental illness to when they actually receive an appropriate medical intervention to support their mental health.

Image: 42nd Street

Simone Spray, Chief Executive of 42nd Street Charity, told The Meteor, that austerity and cuts to public and local services has led to greater demand for their services, saying:

“We have seen an increase in young people accessing our service from 1,000 to over 5,000 in five years but have not had this matched with funding… in 2019/20, 4938 new young people accessed the variety of services on offer at 42nd Street.”

The social objectives of 42nd Street charity are:

  • To improve well-being and recovery 
  • To increase opportunities for young people to shape their own care and influence change
  • To improve and increase inclusion and accessibility to appropriate services and support
  • To increase awareness and reduce stigma

They achieve this by providing many services both one to one and online, such as counselling, therapy, psycho-social support, and advocacy. There are also therapeutic, issue based and identity based groups, and peer support projects, as well as residential and getaway programmes, along with bespoke services in schools, colleges and universities.

Creative programmes have included photography, theatre, dance, music, and creative drop-in centres along with the Comic Relief funded Film 42 project that empowers young black men to utilise filmmaking to explore and seek to change ways that they can access mental health support. With Covid-19 many of the projects have had to move online.

Art session underway. Photo: 42nd St

The services of 42nd Street are available to those living in the Greater Manchester region and they have a number of venues around Manchester. The Horsfall, in Ancoats, is their dedicated workshop and gallery space for creative and social groups, but there are also community venues across the city to ensure that their services are accessible to all young people no matter where they are based within the city.

Sound advice for maintaining mental health all round. Photo: 42nd St.

Funding comes from multiple sources, including the NHS and a variety of trust and foundation funding. Community fundraising has also becoming increasingly important to maintain service, especially in these uncertain times where funding opportunities are more limited and pressures on public funding increases. 

As with most community groups, Covid-19 has presented challenges. Spray explained that at the onset of the lockdown they reacted quickly and moved to remote working, putting their services and groups online to continue support:

“During this time, we have seen a 360% increase in demand for online work as well as increased complexity in the presenting issues and safeguarding. We have also experienced ongoing waits for one to one support, huge increases in uptake for groups work and are now supporting even more young people in schools and colleges.”

Through these challenges the staff have worked together to design and implement changes quickly to ensure that the service was disrupted as little as possible and have even created new ways of working, that have given young people additional support instead of less. Spray said:

“Some of the harder aspects of this time have been increased demand for our services which has left young people waiting for support. There has also been an increase in the complexity of presenting issues with isolation and uncertainty playing a large part. This in turn has led to new and complex safeguarding processes and protocols that take into account both our staff and young people working remotely.

“We have seen first-hand how health, social, and economic inequalities have been exacerbated by Covid-19 and the restrictions put in place. There is now uncertainty for our future funding and the sustainability of the charity and wider sector as a whole.”

Looking to the future, the charity would like to maintain a full service through unrestricted medium-term funding as well as offering further support and equipment to staff to boost morale and team building while they work remotely.

The Future is Ours festival. Image: 42nd St.

Currently, they are in the process of launching The Future is Ours, a 10 day arts festival, created by professional artists alongside young people to give these young people a voice beside celebrating their resilience and creativity during a very tough time. This online event will feature works that explore issues such as mental health, race and identify, youth anger, and feminism at 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm every day from 16-26 November, as well as showcasing on Instagram along with street posters and nineelectronic billboards around Manchester.

Why the name 42nd Street? Spray explained the origin of the name:

“Apparently we were called 42nd Street, because it was number 42 on a different street [to the current building] and helped young people to remember where it was and yet was not associated with mental health so reducing the stigma… I also like to think it’s something to do with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy!”

By Dale Anne McAulay

This article is part of the Mancunians Going the Extra Mile to Help Those in Need series, focusing on the essential work charities are doing in Manchester.

Other articles in the series:

Wood Street Mission: helping families in poverty since 1869

Back on Track: empowering people to make positive changes to their lives

If you think that you could benefit from seeking help at 42nd Street or would like to help out by donating or volunteering, contact them at:

Phone number: 0161 228 7321 (Mon – Fri 9.30am – 5.00pm)

Address: 42nd Street, The Space, 87-91 Great Ancoats Street,
Manchester, M4 5AG

Email, donate and website

Share this article

  • Dale Anne McAulay was an international mathematics teacher for forty years before returning to university to obtain a master’sdegree in multi-media journalism at MMU. Dale is a Canadian that has travelled to 60 countries, living and working in four of them and currently resides in Manchester. She considers herself an educator, world traveller, multiculturalist, and an egalitarian. Dale is a freelance journalist and sits on The Meteor’s Production Team and story circle.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *