Category Archives: Young people

Volunteering and mental wellbeing – perspectives as a volunteer and as a volunteer manager

Radio Lollipop

Last Wednesday evening I was in an old tube train, in a courtyard in Great Ormond Street, lollipoppresenting a radio show which played out in rooms all over the hospital. Children could call in and request songs, or sing along – we told jokes and ran a competition to see who could do the best ‘yeehaaa’ (it was cowboy night). I volunteer with Radio Lollipop on Wednesday evenings – either on the radio, or playing up on the wards. Usually I make it along, unless I’m ill, or work runs late. Even when I’m tired and stressed and feel I would much rather go home and crash on the sofa, I know that if I make it along, I’ll feel glad I did later on, and pleased with myself for making the effort.

Finding the motivation to volunteer when you’re depressed

But there were times in my past when, despite knowing this, it wasn’t so easy to put one foot in front of the other and go where I said I would be. People with depression or anxiety will, of course, recognise the disparity between good times and those when you’re depressed in terms of what you can achieve. The difficulty is when it impacts on others. When I was in good mental health I was enthusiastic, excited and confident to try new things. I would sign up for lots of things, volunteering, new opportunities, social events. Then, when a depressive period hit, I could no longer face going – and usually beat myself up about it as a result. For some people, it’s not about having good times and bad, but simply negotiating the gap between the idea of doing something and the actuality of gaining the motivation and conquering the anxiety that leaving the house and engaging in something new involves.

Volunteering because of past difficulties with mental health/ wellbeing

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Essential skills for giving online peer support – a course in development.

The essential skills advisors and peer supporters need for giving advice, information or support online

These are some of the basic skills that supporters and advisors find useful when working young people on keyboard onlineonline. The support offered might be one to one (email style), peer or expert support, moderating forums or moderating real time chat. Depending on the type of support being offered I’ve emphasised certain areas or added additional advanced skills to my training. This training tends to be offered to people who are taking on a specific supporter role, rather than individuals who are part of the community. With adjustments, it can also be offered to community members to help them look after themselves and get more out of their experience online. Continue reading

Giving help that makes a difference – the subtleties of emotional support online

A question of jealousy

Take a look at this relationships question about jealousy:

“I’m always worried my boyfriend is going to cheat on me when he’s out with his friends. I’m always texting him when he’s out and it annoys him but I have no confidence that he won’t cheat. We live together and have been together for nearly two years. I can’t help thinking ‘what if?’ even tho he says he has never cheated. I can just imagine that in the future he’ll decide he’s had enough and I will lose him. I really don’t want that. I’m pushing him away, I don’t want to but I am. Help me.”

How would you go about writing an answer?

Photo by Alyssa L Miller 

Photo by Alyssa L Miller

 

At the moment, I’m thinking a lot about the skills needed for peer support online – whether that be in mental health, relationships or other areas of support. You can have a look at a slideshow I did at a conference in Antwerp about using the web to provide peer support for emotional health and wellbeing here. Continue reading

Mind the gap – GPs, antidepressants and mental health support for young people.

“I’m not going to give you another prescription”
“What… but I need it.. (panics)”
“Don’t worry, I was just testing to see if you really did still need them..and I think you do”
GP in Fenham, Newcastle

“Just take them when you feel you need to”  – to me aged 17.
GP in Cumbria

“So, do you want to kill yourself then?” – on a routine prescription pick up.
GP in Bow, London

“It’s important you stop taking this medication as soon as possible, we have no idea what impact it can have, especially if you start taking it when you are under 18”
GP in Fenham, Newcastle

“It’s fine for you to take it as long as you need to, even for ever”
GP in Tower Hamlets, London

“They’re not addictive”
GP in Cambridge

“You will get withdrawal symptoms”
GP in Byker, Newcastle


The above is a selection of the contradicting information and advice – as well as frankly bizarre approaches and attitudes I have experienced in the twelve years I have been seeing GPs regularly. 

(2016 note – I wrote this piece in 2011 when I was just getting started blogging – but a lot of it is still relevant)

Personal and practical barriers to getting support from a GP

I’ve spent lot of time supporting young people to take the first steps to support. Their GP is usually the gatekeeper for services.  A lot of young people really struggle to get the mental health support they need, facing a number of personal or practical barriers along the way. As well as support in articles, live chat and on discussion boards, one of the projects I was involved in at YouthNet (now The Mix) was crowdsourcing and discussing experiences in order to create community content to help others overcome these barriers. The project really highlighted the frustrating reality of trying to get the support you need from local health services. Continue reading

The role of stories and writing in support for young people.

True stories online

TheSite.org has published editorialised true stories for years. These stories enabled us to give atrue-stories more personal angle to some of the issues we were addressing in articles, and to cover other more ‘newsy’ issues. The range of stories reflects the range of issues addressed on TheSite.org, from selling sex or coming off heroin to taking part in the student protests or waiting for a new heart. For the people involved, it is a chance to share or celebrate their experiences, perhaps to gain some perspective and to help others understand the issue they faced.

These kind of true stories on TheSite.org fall into the remit of the editorial team. Those who want to share their experience, or those we approach, tell their story to a journalist who then writes it up in the style of TheSite.org. Interestingly, we recently did some work with Radio 1’s Sunday Surgery ‘Sexuality Night’, providing support for their listeners on the Radio 1 Facebook page. We shared a range of relevant content from TheSite.org, but it was the true stories (namely ‘How I came out as bi’ and ‘The naked truth of asexuality’) which received the most views, shares and likes. Continue reading

If xLy iff yLx is true, then x cannot stop loving y unless y also stops loving x … thoughts on relationships advising and philosophy

Earlier on this week I rediscovered a website called askphilosophers.org. It’s a question and answer service where people post questions which are answered publicly by philosophers. All the sections are pretty interesting (check out the environmental philosophy section) but particularly relevant to us who work on askTheSite was the section on love and emotions.

There was a really interesting mix of some of the sorts of questions we would get in the Relationships section of askTheSite

(‘Can a guy REALLY love you if he comments on other girls saying that they’re cute?’), to questions that took a step back and saw the issue in terms of a more general dilemma (‘If, within a marriage, one partner denies the other sex, can they morally still demand that the other refrain?’).

Where can young people ask philosophical questions?

In my previous job I was once asked a question about the meaning of life. It wasn’t phrased quite like that, but in essence that was what the question was. It went something along the lines of ‘I’m not suicidal, but I keep thinking that, when I die, my family and friends will be sad for a while, but then they will get on with their lives, and they will die and it will be as if I had never existed at all. I just don’t see the point’. The user was concerned about this question to the extent that she felt the need to write into a helpline to help her find meaning in her life. But where else could she talk about these issues? Possibly askphilosophers.org?  Patrick and I were thinking about whether we should have a section in askTheSite for more general religious and philosophical questions – young people come up against these all the time but don’t really have a young person orientated forum in which to ask them. Continue reading

Overcoming barriers and taking steps to support – why we’re developing services on TheSite.org

The notion of barriers to support is a common one in information, advice and guidance, but the particular way it is informing the new Step Finder project we’re working on grew organically out of our teams work.

Personal and practical barriers

For example on the discussion boards we’ve seen questions about how to call Samaritansstepswhat actually happens when you pick up the phone? What do you say? What do they say? How do you stop yourself from panicking – or being overheard?. Similarly people have told us how they have been given the details for a walk in centre, but don’t know what to do when they get there – ‘Do I just walk in?’. Sometimes, a bad experience in the past can be a barrier – ‘Oh, I’ve tried going to my GP, they don’t help’ or even ‘I’m scared of the receptionist at the surgery’. Lack of self esteem or confidence can really affect someones ability to follow the guidance or signposting they are given – ‘I’ve got the information on how to get help, but I’m too shy to actually talk to anyone’. The barriers individuals face are often very personal to their situation. Continue reading

Radio Lollipop – a different sort of work with young people

On the Wednesday before Christmas,  my colleague and friend Laura and I went to help out with the Great Ormond Street and Radio Lollipop‘s Rockin’ Reindeer Christmas parties. Usually we volunteer for Radio Lollipop in Great Ormond Street on a Wednesday evening. We spend two hours after work each week visiting and playing with children on the wards, while other volunteers run a radio show. The children can request songs and enter competitions on different themes each week.

At Christmas, there’s lots more than usual going on. A couple of Saturdays before, we both helped out at a Tin Pan Annie concert (fundraising for Radio Lollipop) where we dressed up as a snowflake and a reindeer, waved at and danced with kids during songs – then shook buckets at the end.

The Rockin’ Reindeer Christmas parties were held over two days, two on Wednesday and two on Thursday, each for an hour and a half. We were both helping on Wednesday afternoon and we spent the parties running a craft table where children who were at the hospital at the moment, or had been in 2011, could do some sticking, gluing, colouring and, in this picture, making reindeer out of playdough. We also did some celeb spotting, spying the Weasley twins, Tess Daley, the Radio 1 crew, a Santa Claus who sounded suspiciously like Boris Johnson and a number of stormtroopers (do they count as celebs!).

 

For Christmas volunteering opportunities, check out our TheSite.org article on Christmas volunteering. But of course,volunteering isn’t just for Christmas – so if you’re interested in volunteering in, you should be able to find an opportunity to suit you on Do-it.

Using the web to provide peer support for emotional health and wellbeing

This is a write up of my thoughts, experience and findings from the In Petto conference  ‘Exploring Online Peer to Peer Support’ in Antwerp. I attended this, along with a volunteer peer advisor last November.

Structures and systems for providing online peer support.

At the conference we were focusing in more depth on peer support and how this could be given online.  Before giving our own workshop, we heard from a range of other organisations, each with quite different ways of offering peer support online. Continue reading