When I consider the idea of young people and mental health, and how resilience can be such a powerful coping strategy, I wonder what resilience really means in terms of wellbeing for a generation of young people bombarded by not only internal factors (the things directly inside their unique world and experiencing) but the effects of all the external factors such as social media and the associated access to the wider world.
How do we create resilience in our young people, the kind of resilience that might protect and develop an internal valuing system that provides a shield and a defence to what can often be perceived as an overload in terms of stimulus to a developing and often fragile self-concept? This is also reflected in the messages that are relayed around mental health, the message for young people is to seek help, talk to someone, get some support. However, the reality is that young people who do seek help are viewed in a certain way, there is a loss of credibility, a stigma that might or might not follow them into adulthood. For young people that do seek help the message is often mixed, for our young people in crisis who do seek help, the message can be confusing, they are not “in sufficient crisis” to receive immediate help or support, and the kind of help that is available is oversubscribed with long waiting lists. This is a constant source of frustration for those working with young people who are looking for immediate help or support, in order that the emotional wellbeing of the young person is addressed before it spirals out of control.
Strange as it might seem, my view is not a pessimistic one. I have seen young people who engage with the appropriate help, change flourish and grow. The kind of environment that celebrates difference and diversity. The kind of spaces that promote individual thinking and understands the kind of pain and isolation that can be experienced when a young person does not identify with their peers or the status quo. A society that encourages an individual to grow and develop in their own unique and individual way, a society that does not view kindness and acceptance as bohemian behaviour and not behaviour that is encouraged in “real business” where in order to be successful one needs to be “brutal and inflexible”. I believe that if this kind of growth and change is to happen in any kind of meaningful way for our young people, there needs to be consensus, people singing from the same song sheet. All of the organisations that touch a young person’s life to have an understanding and expectation around what their service or contact might give to a child emotionally, rather than the constant assessing and compartmentalising of our young people into intellectual and emotional boxes that individuals may spend years of their lives trying to shed or escape from. If we as a society have consensus around the elements that create resilience and are steadfast in providing the kind of environment that is capable of implementing strategies towards achieving resilience in young people, we will be promoting the wellbeing of a generation of young people.
Suicide Bereavement Support Officer