We Need Your Help
Free Your Mind CIC is a small, not-for-profit grassroots organisation, specialising in providing bespoke therapy for child victims of Domestic Abuse and Violence. We are currently one of the only organisations in the UK that focuses specifically on children and young people who have witnessed Domestic Abuse and Violence.
Our ‘Children Are Victims Too’ campaign highlights that children and young people suffer with trauma from witnessing Domestic Abuse and Violence, which can have an impact on their long-term mental health and wellbeing. We want every child affected to be supported, which is why we are looking to raise funds for our ‘practitioner pot’ to allow us to provide more hours of therapeutic 1-2-1 sessions and ultimately support more victims through this.
At Free Your Mind CIC, our practitioners have supported 765 children and young people (since 1st August 2020) through therapeutic sessions, counselling and focus groups, but with your help we can support hundreds more.
The Cost of Living Crisis has increased the demand for our service by 15% since last year, with almost 300 referrals made to our specialist therapeutic 1-2-1 service from April 2022 to March 2023. Our waiting lists are growing, leaving children and young people waiting for the support they so desperately need to help with their mental health and wellbeing. We have seen first-hand the effects on those who are exposed to Domestic Abuse and Violence and left to reflect on what they have witnessed and the trauma they’ve suffered.
We have worked really hard to try to respond to the increase in referrals and are proud that our current waiting time is down to 6 weeks; from the 12 weeks it was in 2021 due to the fallout of the pandemic increasing demand for our service by 900%. 6 weeks is in line with the average wait time for children and young people to access mental health services in England but in many cases children are waiting 3 months to 2 years to be assessed by other providers such as CAMHS in various parts of the UK.
We’re a small not-for-profit organisation dependent on donations. We are so grateful for any donations that we receive, no matter the size. The money raised through this campaign will enable us to pay practitioners for further hours, reducing our waiting list and wait times.
Goal #1 - £2000 will provide up to 80 hours of therapeutic 1-2-1 sessions to 14 children/young people (based on a course of 6 sessions each)
Goal #2 - £3000 will provide up to 120 hours of therapeutic 1-2-1 sessions to 20 children/young people
Goal #3 - £5000 will provide up to 200 hours of therapeutic 1-2-1 sessions to 33 children/young people
What we do
We provide children and young people aged 5 - 25 years old, with 8 weekly bespoke 1-2-1 therapy sessions, using a range of therapies such as play therapy, meditation and CBT-based therapy - applied according to their personal needs. Through our support sessions we aim to give children and young people the tools they need to look after their own happiness and wellbeing, plus we promote the importance of having healthy relationships. Free Your Mind empowers children and young people - helping them overcome their trauma so they can thrive like their peers and live a fulfilled life
With our focus predominantly in the London Boroughs of Redbridge and Waltham Forest; more than 1,400 children are living with domestic abuse in Redbridge (Ilford Recorder, 2019). More recently we have partnered with Birmingham City Council and Children’s Services after 5,933 concerns were raised about a child relating to Domestic Abuse and Violence from January to September 2022 (Birmingham Children’s Trust).
All of our practitioners are fully qualified in relevant therapies and peer support and have lived experience of, or have witnessed Domestic Abuse and Violence. They are best placed to support our service users, having grown up with Domestic Abuse and mental illness, they know and have seen life in ways others haven’t. They know pain that so many never will. Our practitioners also run an online anonymous support chat.
We are a predominantly female and Black and Asian Minority Ethnic run organisation; 60% of our trustees are Black women; 66% of our senior staff are Black women and have lived experience of Domestic Abuse; 100% of our senior staff are women; 55% of our staff are from Black and Asian Minority Ethnic backgrounds; 73% of our staff are women; 100% of our practitioners have lived experience of Domestic Abuse. This reflects our service users' backgrounds; over 50% of which are from Black and Asian Minority Ethnic backgrounds. Our practitioners provide a mirror for our service users to feel seen/heard, being from diverse backgrounds helps them to combat social and cultural barriers others may not be as well versed in.
We regularly receive amazing feedback from the children, young people and their parents/carers about the services we provide.
Free Your Mind CIC also offers additional services including:
- Holiday Activity Programmes
Our summer holiday activity programmes are enjoyed by children who have previously attended 1-2-1 therapeutic sessions with us. We provide a safe space for children, to take them away from the isolation of being at home and distract them from reflecting on their trauma. The activities encourage new friendships, increase confidence and teach new skills. Activities include pizza making, arts and crafts, cooking classes, face painting and card games.
- A Safe Space for Parent Survivors
We have collaborated with a local coffee shop in Redbridge to provide a safe space for Domestic Abuse and Violence survivor parents to seek advice on housing and mental health support.
- Support for Families of Service Users
We have expanded on our support for families, due to the Cost of Living Crisis exacerbating the needs of those who are already suffering from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who often make up our service users. Our most common support for those fleeing Domestic Abuse and Violence, is housing support funds, food bank referrals, Tesco and Amazon vouchers, white goods via BBC Essentials and information on boarding school opportunities via Buttle.
- Partnership with Box Up Crime
We have a dedicated Youth Mentor at Box Up Crime in Redbridge once a week at their open boxing sessions for children and young people. Box Up Crime provides a safe place for children and young people to build confidence and a way to get a much-needed healthy release. Having a mentor here allows them to receive support they need, combining physical and mental outlets for those who may be suffering in silence due to complicated home lives.
- Childhood Domestic Abuse Training
We have designed training that can be delivered online or in-person, for those who work directly with children, e.g. teaching staff, police and social workers.
As a small not-for-profit organisation, all donations go directly to supporting children, ensuring our practitioners can continue to provide specialist counselling for children and young people, without any financial barriers in the way.
Children Are Victims Too - The Impact
At school, a child’s biggest concern should be who stole their rubber or what their Mum’s going to say when they come home having lost their cardigan (again!). They should not fear going home, but unfortunately for many, this isn’t the case. There is no safe, loving home to go back to.
Domestic Abuse and Violence has a huge impact on children and young people’s welfare and increases the risk of harm to a child. It can seriously impact both their physical and mental wellbeing, which can last into adulthood. Children and young people experiencing Domestic Abuse and Violence may display behavioural issues and become withdrawn, timid and emotional. Some parents and carers share concerns that their children are having suicidal thoughts or have attempted suicide.
With a perpetrator parent, the abuse becomes complex and even more so when the adult survivor separates from the perpetrator. Many parents and carers will be reluctant to report Domestic Abuse and Violence for fear of not being believed, losing contact with their children or the abuse getting worse. Just recently there have been reports in the media of parents choosing to flee the country with their children to keep them safe from a perpetrator parent.
Children Are Victims Too - The Facts
Domestic abuse is a public health crisis in the UK. Children that have witnessed domestic abuse at home are now legally classed as victims (2020).
‘Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.’
This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
Free Your Mind was founded in 2013 by Natasha Benjamin after Natasha herself suffered a mental health breakdown following the fallout of her own lived experience of witnessing Domestic Abuse at home. Natasha is not only our founder, but our Managing Director and Lead Practitioner, having helped thousands of children herself in the last ten years. Natasha says “All children and young people witnessing Domestic Abuse are being emotionally abused”.
The Free Your Mind journey began after Natasha considered suicide after struggling with depression following the trauma of witnessing Domestic Abuse as a child, combined with a series of events including being in a car accident and becoming unwell. Fortunately Natasha started a blog to help herself and to help others, and that’s where Free Your Mind was born. Natasha has since trained as a qualified Child & Adolescent Peer Support Worker, and Certified Trauma Professional (IAOTH CTP, BPS) and grown Free Your Mind into an organisation that now has a team of practitioners that support hundreds of children and young people through the same trauma she experienced.
Natasha and Free Your Mind have appeared in local and national newspapers and magazines, including The Sun, The Mirror and Glamour Magazine. In 2019, Natasha was the winner of TV and Lorraine Kelly’s ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year’ award and was also selected by BBC Radio 4’s Womens’ Hour as an ‘Inspirational Woman’ to watch. You can watch the video of Natasha receiving her award here Natasha Benjamin is named Lorraine's Inspirational Woman of the Year | Lorraine (itv.com).
See Our Website for more information and keep up to date on our social media accounts:
£8 - counts towards postage for us to be able to send a package with items to improve a young person’s mental health and wellbeing
£15 - counts towards us being able to make a difference in a young person’s life by sending them items to improve their mental health and wellbeing
£30 - will enable us to pay for a young person to travel to our safe space and have one session with one of our trained practitioners
£75 - helps us to give a young person two 1-2-1 support sessions to help them find the tools they need to heal from the trauma of their childhood
£175 - will help us to provide a young person with 6 weeks worth of counselling to help them to heal from their experiences and to eventually lead a healthy and happier life