WE’VE all seen TV coverage or read reports about the misdemeanours of young people under the influence of drink and drugs, which of course is greatly concerning. In great contrast, we hear little about those facing their own real life crisis.
We need greater recognition of the challenges that many face each day and far more support during their transition to adulthood. Issues are extensive, ranging from relationship difficulties to sexual abuse, with social and emotional difficulties leading to negative thoughts and feelings.
The poor emotional wellbeing amongst adolescents is a growing concern, with society’s great expectations creating undue pressures. Depression amongst teenagers in the UK increased by 70 per cent between 1982 and 2007, and the UK has the highest instances in Europe of self-harm in those aged between 11 and 25 years. There are many youth and community support networks that do an essential job lending an ear or talking over concerns. While that kind of dialogue is vital, for many it is simply not enough.
At Caledonia Youth we work in partnership with funders to deliver a unique two-tiered service of counselling and one-to-one support to young people under 25. We bridge the gaps between youth organisations and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which are stretched to the limit and don’t deal with over 18s.
One young person from a Scottish Transitions Forum’s focus group said: “Leaving CAMHS felt like I was falling off a cliff. I lost support and fell through the gaps … once you’re 18, they treat you like you are responsible, but overnight that doesn’t change. We still need the support.”
Our two-tiered approach ensures we cover varying degrees of need and allows us to transfer a client if necessary between services. The psychotherapy theories and other methods we use are tailored to the individual’s requirements, knowledge and way of thinking. This optimises the potential for success and gives greater confidence to colleagues who make referrals to us – social workers, GPs, guidance teachers, key workers and youth workers. Young people also self-refer.
Counselling has proved essential in complex cases where people are susceptible to mental health issues, and we have ramped up our one-to-one support by increasing our team and launching CY4You, which provides intensive, ongoing individual interventions. We focus on a young person’s ability to cope with the transition into adulthood, aiming to improve resilience, reduce risk-taking behaviour and enhance personal and family relationships. To help them tackle their concerns, skills are developed to address personal issues, build self-esteem and reduce anxiety, while repairing and changing the patterns of past negative behaviour or thoughts.
This is part of our drive to develop as a centre of excellence, where young people can explore in depth issues with specialist staff in a safe environment. We involve young people at every stage of an intervention, resulting in trusting relationships between them and their assigned specialist worker.
And as our services are only as good as the people delivering them, it is important for us to invest in the right team and essential that we take care of them too. Everyone has the vital support of our counsellor. We are rewarded with a team can deal with the whole spectrum of problems we face.
While public policy recognises developing social and emotional capabilities has positive outcomes, all too often vital services are seen as costly by their very nature. This results in a dearth of provision. With significant waiting lists for our own services, it is obvious we are just scratching the surface.
Undoubtedly greater investment is needed in specialist support such as our own, to allow young people access to services that can prove life-changing. What are the consequences if society fails to treat this as a priority?
We run the risk of young people not fulfilling their life’s potential or, worse, becoming unwell, even suicidal. If you think about it, we wouldn’t let someone wait if they suffered a physical condition such as a broken leg. Let’s not leave vulnerable young people out in the cold, let’s help give them purpose.
• Hawys Kilday is chief executive of Caledonia Youth www.caledoniayouth.org