A teenager with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has praised a mental health charity for helping him “be himself”.
Matthew, 17, said Trust Links, based in Southend-on-Sea, was like a “second family”.
BBC Children in Need has donated £99,735 and the charity now supports 4,000 children and young people a year.
CEO Matt King said it was “rebuilding lives” after referrals trebled during the pandemic.
“It gives them that connection… it makes them feel valued, it makes them feel safe,” he said.
Projects include getting young people to grow and cook vegetables, which the charity calls “therapeutic gardening”.
It has community gardens and allotments across south Essex, including in Shoeburyness, Rochford and Basildon. It also runs wellbeing workshops and social events.
“Here I can just be myself,” said Matthew, who said he had been struggling to make friends at school and previously felt he had to hide his ADHD.
“It’s like a second family, and if I feel like I can’t confide with my family… I know I can come here.
“I feel more happy, I feel more cheerful, I’ve been more open…”
BBC Children in Need Day takes place on Friday. Find out more about here.