Do you know a young person who needs support with their mental health?
Do you want them to feel heard, held, valued and empowered.
For this they need tools.
Writing and Poetry are amazing tools.
"The effects of writing as a tool for healing are well documented. James Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, studied the impact of writing on mental health in 1986. Since then, over 200 research studies have reported that “emotional writing” can improve people’s physical and emotional health."
Harvard Business Review
It can be really hard to find help. CAMHs (In which I have worked for years) can be helpful, but sadly they are underfunded and understaffed. Young people often complain of standardised responses to their struggles.
When people need help, they need it today, not in 6-18 months. The help also needs to be relevant to the young person and carer. The earlier people are helped the better the outcomes. Sadly, parents and carers can end up being as isolated as young people.
To this extent I offer a free 1/2 hour consultation so that you can talk about your situation and your needs. It may be that I can help. It may be that I can send you in the right direction to receive help.
Also on this website I list coping techniques and links to organisations that might be able to help. It is my passion to help young people in difficulty. I have been working in an in-patient adolescent unit for the last 5 1/2 years and I really feel it would be more effective to work with young people earlier and in the community.
Autistic young people face a unique experience. There is no map or guide book to how they feel and this can be overwhelming and stressful. Writing can help to create a relationship with themselves and others. I have worked with a lot of autistic teenagers and have been amazed at their ability to relate once they find an effective medium. Writing is safe, private and is a tool people can take with them in their lives.
Young people can be crippled by social anxiety. This can start in school and can extend into the home making it impossible to relate their feelings. Many people with social anxiety have benefitted greatly from Pete's Poetry Workshop. Anxiety builds on what has happened in the past and what young people believe will happen in the future. I have had young people who have arrived in group and cried for the first session, there is only acceptance and no pressure in my groups and it is a source of much joy that each of these people has gone on to be some of the most prolific writers. What I say to people is that the workshop is not what you expect it to be, but really this is something that is learned in taking part and seeing how other young people respond. I offer zoom sessions for those young people who are not yet ready to enter into a group situation. This is where writing is the perfect tool - form a bridge, then cross it.
Unfortunately a lot of struggling young people end up self-harming. In many conversations I have had with young people, the sad truth is that they find that self-harm an effective coping strategy. Young people often write about self-harm, commonly glorifying it. What I have found helpful is getting people to write about the thoughts and feelings that come before self-harming. Unless we get to the root cause we cannot hope to break the, often addictive, cycle. Self-harm is rarely an action that exists in isolation to other conditions. Journaling and poetry can help young people to start to understand what is happening for themselves. Once there is a communication and a connection there is the possibility of finding the right paths to get help.
Depression can take over a young persons life and affect their relationship with their family, friends, education and themselves. Through writing, young people can start to explore what has happened to them. Depression is rarely in isolation to other conditions and can often be the result of a traumatic experience. Young people are often offered medication to help them cope, but understanding cause and effect can be really beneficial. Writing offers a space where feelings get explored without having to reveal all that is private, which can be difficult for young people. One of the huge benefits to writing in a group is that connection to others can be a main components of recovery.
Amongst young people struggling with difficulties ranging from mental health to bullying and traumatic experiences the danger of suicide is a very real one. Whilst self-harm can be a coping mechanism, a suicide attempt is the last resort. There are degrees of intent. Often the desire to commit suicide or to focus on it is the desperation to stop feeling bad, to stop bad thoughts, bad memories, to silence voices in the head and to break out of the inevitable cycle of always ending up feeling low. It is important to discuss openly with young people what their intentions are. Talking and writing openly about suicide does not encourage people to do it, it opens dialogue and lets young people communicate what is happening for them. It does help to share your feelings with peers, knowing that you are not alone is comforting. Young people, of course, may not want to talk about their feelings and this is fine. Being patient, available and helping with communication skills, means that when the time is right, help will be there.
Eating disorders are one of the most complex conditions that young people struggle with. In my writing groups, people suffering from eating disorders have often being the most prolific writers. Anorexia involves a lot of internal dialogue and very intense scrutiny of self. I feel this translates very well to writing. Most people with eating disorders are very high achieving and the expression and honesty that young people display can often be extraordinary. Often it can be to let off steam, but producing a body of work, sharing and having a medium to communicate how difficult life is can be very validating and helpful.