For Mental Health Awareness Week we asked New Horizon Youth Centre’s counsellor Pauline for her best advice and tips for good mental health and wellbeing for young people. We heard how she is continuing to provide a non-judgemental confidential service for young people who have nowhere safe to call home throughout lockdown.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to your role?
I have been a counsellor for 36 years. I know it’s a long time! For the past 8 years, I have worked at New Horizon. I chose to study counselling as a student. Viewing my life as a whole, I now feel it was an inevitable choice. Both the hardships I had survived and my interest in others led me to my career choice.
2. Now that the centre is closed, how are you continuing to offer counselling to young people?
With the centre doors closed, I am offering telephone counselling on Mondays and Thursdays. I have contacted all the young people I was in contact with before the centre closed and encouraged those young people to access counselling again over the phone. I am also getting new referrals every week from staff across the organisation who are working with young people who would like counselling so I’m adding more and more young people to my case list every day! What has surprised me most is how similar telephone counselling is to face-to-face work. Although I am getting to used to hearing different noises in the background – sometimes young people are riding a bike, sitting in the park or catching half an hour on their lunch break which is very different to our usual room at New Horizon! But also goes to show how flexible young people are and how the different ways they engage in this service.
3. What would you say young people are experiencing the most at the moment? What are they talking to you about?
There is so much that young people want to talk about and so much to process. Imagine that you are living separately from your family, or your living arrangements are precarious or you are on the streets and all the support services you are in contact with have closed down. Many young people feel abandoned by those around them including the adults in their lives. We have talked about what changes they have been forced to make during this time and how this makes them feel. These changes are not all experienced as negative. One young person was so relieved to have a place where he could now wash his hands. Some people are using this space in their lives to think about what is important to them and what changes they want to make to their future as well.
4. What are your 3-5 top tips for young people during to lockdown to support them to cope with their mental health and look after themselves during this time?
Talk to people you trust, be active as much as possible, play games. Use this time constructively. This can mean applying for jobs and courses if these are what you need. When the lockdown ends, will you be ready?
5. What are your hopes and wishes for mental health support after the lockdown/as the lockdown eases?
I hope that everyone has a forum to talk through the meaning of their experience to them. This is the most important thing for me. Without such an opportunity, especially for vulnerable young people, this can lead to longer term mental health challenges for example, delaying in responding to the emotional impact of their experience can lead to repression or difficulties managing emotional resilience.
6. Lastly, what will you be doing to make sure you look after yourself and your mental wellbeing during mental health awareness week?
Good question! I will use Mental Health Week the same as I use every week. I will try to talk to everyone I care about. I will keep active, which for me is walking in nature. I will try to learn and grow. I will be supportive to others as this also supports my mental health and gives me a purpose.
If you want to get in touch or share your thoughts just use the hashtag #NHYC