October 20, 2022



Early Break is excited to roll out Stressed Out Brain! A new and engaging animation and resource workbook to support professionals and volunteers working with young people. Director Janine Day led the development of the project said, “This has truly been a co-produced piece of work, with young people at the centre of the project from the start.”  Stressed Out Brain was commissioned by Salford City Council’s Violence Reduction Unit and is part of a wider partnership and public health campaign.  Its aim is to raise awareness about substance misuse and its links to serious youth violence and mental health issues.

The project was developed as a result of research commissioned by Early Break. It was carried out by Dr Sally-Ann Ashton in 2021 at Edge Hill University. The research involved young people who were engaging with the STEER project led by the Salford Foundation. The STEER Project focused on working with young people involved in serious youth violence. The report highlighted that:

  • Cannabis use was associated with verbal and physical abuse at home
  • Cocaine and prescription drug use was associated with lack of parental care, family drug use, and problem drinking at home
  • Isolation from the family and class A drug use increase vulnerability to criminal and sexual exploitation

Many of the young people who took part in the study reported that the primary reason for their continued use of substances was as a coping strategy to deal with their lived experiences of previous trauma and/or to help them regulate their emotional health and well-being.

Rhyse Cathcart the Operational Manager for Salford Young Peoples Drug and Alcohol Services said,It became clear that young people were telling us that they needed more help and support to make changes.  The impact of Covid 19 on our young people’s mental health is well documented and the ‘Stressed Out Brain’ seeks to provide young people with the tools to try and address these issues and get extra guidance if they need it.”

One of the young people who helped design the animation confessed.

My worker asked me if I would be interested in helping Early Break create some resources that would help others like me. I was really involved: from helping with getting the message across that we can, like, press reset in our heads and how weed can really affect how you’re thinking… It’s bad cos when you think this helps me escape or it helps me sleep… You don’t realise that as we said in the animation, it’s just sort of ‘papering over the cracks’…Most of the time you know it ain’t really helping but you tell yourself it is… like, self-justifying…

they went on to say

‘I used some of the tools like relaxation exercises and breathing techniques.  With some help from my Early Break worker,  I changed the way I was looking at things – it really helped…’ 

having completed the work they told us

‘I managed to pass my GCSEs and a year ago I was failing everything and getting mixed up in some bad stuff!.. I’ve just started an apprenticeship and life’s chill… Yeah, it wasn’t easy but definitely worth it…. I am in a good place now.”

The rollout of the resource across the city of Salford began at the end of September with a number of workshops being delivered to help partner agencies working with young people look at the tools. The resource is designed to help young people using substances self-manage or get extra assistance if they need it.  Those taking part in the workshops will be able to take the resources back to their agencies and communities, share the tools and interventions as a starting point for working with young people and signpost them to Early Break if they need more specialist support and interventions.

Click the image for the link to the full animation

Training Date and Location

Friday 17th March – 9:30am – 4:00pm

Matthew Moss Youth Centre, Matthew Moss Lane, Rochdale, OL11 3LU

For more information about booking training workshops please email training@earlybreak.co.uk