A CHAT WITH: Emma Cuerden from Over The Rainbow

Over The Rainbow is a LGBT+ group for young people in St Helens. We have a chat with Emma Cuerden, a Health Improvement Practitioner for St Helens Sexual Health service, who runs the group, about how it was formed and how it is supporting young people from the borough.

Tell us about Over The Rainbow. What is it and how was it established?

“Over The Rainbow was established about five years ago after it was recognised that there was no provision for LGBT+ young people in St Helens. Over The Rainbow is a part social, part support group for young people aged 13-25 years who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Trans*, questioning or unsure of their sexuality or gender identity.

“We run a closed confidential youth group based in St Helens, Merseyside. At Over the Rainbow, young people will find a group of likeminded people that they can socialise with safely.”

What does the group offer to those who attend?

“We offer information, advice and guidance on a range of issues relevant to young people in general and LGBT+ young people in particular, including coming out, bullying, sexual and emotional and mental health and well-being.

“If additional support like counselling is required, we will signpost them to an appropriate service. Our aim is to empower all young people to have positive self-esteem and confidence, to help them realise they are supported, to give them a sense that they are part of a community and never alone, and to allow them the freedom of expression and opportunity for association.

What impact do you think Over The Rainbow has on the young people you support?

“The group has given the young people a forum to air their views in a safe supportive environment. It also allows them to take part in projects that will influence LGBT+ awareness and make St Helens an inclusive town for all. The group provides them with peer support and friendship as well as feeling they are listened to and accepted within the community. Young people have told me that their confidence has increased and that they love making new friends.”

The past year has been challenging for youth organisations, how have you managed to stay in contact?

“The group traditionally meets on the first Wednesday of every month in an accessible building in St Helens town centre. However, since the pandemic, it was apparent that young people and in particular LGBT+ young people may need to access support more frequently, so the group moved to a digital platform and meets weekly. We are hoping that sometime in the near future we will be able to once again meet in person.”

What do you consider to be Over The Rainbow’s biggest success in the past year?

“In these unprecedented times during the COVID-19 outbreak, the team at Over the Rainbow explored new ways to deliver our services and support young people whilst making sure the staff remained safe.  As the world changed around us, we continued and consistently offered help and support to those who needed it. We changed and adapted to run it digitally. Despite what has been going on in the world, our young people knew that every Wednesday they could have a little piece of normality and stability coming together with like-minded young people.”

What are Over The Rainbow’s hopes and ambitions for 2021 and beyond?

“The hope for the Over The Rainbow group is that it continues to grow, and we finally get to go back to the group when it’s safe to do so. We want to get back to planning Pride and the group would like to attend its first Pride march as a group – something we haven’t ever done.”

How do people get involved with Over The Rainbow?

“You can get in touch with us using the contact details at the end of this article. When you do, you will receive an induction including an explanation of how the group works and what it can offer. You will be asked if there are any particular issues you may want support with, and if you are receiving any support elsewhere.

“Young people will be informed about the venue and planned activities they may take part in. It is important to note that we are not a medical service. We cannot provide a diagnosis of any kind.”

What’s the best thing about Over The Rainbow?

“The best thing about Over The Rainbow is that it is a safe place for people just to be themselves without worrying about what people think.  As the leader of the group, it’s heartwarming to see our young people relax, be happy and grow in confidence.”

To access Over The Rainbow call 01744 457 243 or email shealth.improvement@sthk.nhs.uk.
You can also visit www.getiton.org.uk or follow on Facebook @sthelensLGBTnetwork.


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LCR Pride Foundation is a registered charity in England & Wales, no 1185167. Registered Company 11754074.