Ninety autistic people, who have had severe long-term mental health effects during lockdown will be receiving help from new counselling support and wellbeing services, thanks to a grant of £57,000 to Daisy Chain from Durham Freemasons.

The new wellbeing service offers autistic young people and adults across the Tees Valley free access to in-person wellbeing support and professional counselling services.

Although autism is not a mental health condition, people on the autistic spectrum are more vulnerable to mental health problems.  Research indicates that 70 per cent of children with autism develop mental health problems, 40 per cent suffer with anxiety and 30 per cent with depression.

The wellbeing service has been introduced to help autistic young people and adults to develop resilience and coping strategies during stressful and challenging situations.

It will also support neurodiverse people in developing a positive outlook on life as well as promoting confidence and self-worth.

The grant from Durham Freemasons has been delivered through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Lynnette Taylor, adult and children’s wellbeing lead at Daisy Chain, said: “We are very grateful to Durham Freemasons for their generous grant.

“Offering a safe space for autistic young people and adults, and enabling access to counselling and wellbeing support has never been more vital. Autistic young people, adults and their families have seen a significant decrease in critical services available to them during the pandemic, which has inevitably increased the request for our wellbeing services.”

One of the service users who has accessed Daisy Chain’s wellbeing service, Quinn Cole, age 17, has shared his experiences: “Picture this – a butterfly trapped in a cage full of thoughts for two weeks, to be released for an hour, free and happy, with no worries and not a care in the world. That is what the wellbeing service feels like to me.”

Gordon Brewis from Durham Freemasons, said: “Lockdown has been difficult for everyone, but especially for autistic people. I’m delighted that Daisy Chain’s excellent service will be available for those with mental health problems. It’s a great start to the post-lockdown period.”

For further information on Daisy Chain’s wellbeing service, please contact wellbeing@daisychainproject.co.uk.