Well I can’t believe it’s that time of year again. We hope that you have a really lovely, fun, restful and happy festive season!
Here at HOT we’ve thought of a new idea to help my blog be a way for us to share the issues that young people talk about with our amazing workers and volunteers.
Our social media topic over December has been to think about how to take care of ourselves over the festive season. Sometimes people drink too much, or eat too much, or party too much. For some of our young people, Christmas and New Year can be a very difficult time – if they don’t live with their family, or if their family argues more, or if poverty makes it difficult to afford presents. There is a lot of pressure to buy things and there is often a lot of waste.
At HOT we think that you don’t need to buy things – you can make things, bake something, spend time with people having fun, or you can make them a playlist or give a photo or a picture. It’s all about love – not money.
We asked our team to share the issues that young people have been talking about – here’s what young people said:
A lot of people have been talking about self-harm. Self-harm is a coping strategy that people sometimes use to help them cope with difficult feelings. It can be things like fighting, having sex with people who don’t treat us well, drinking too much and/or taking drugs like weed/cannabis, it might be eating too much or not enough, or it might be hitting or cutting ourselves. Luckily HOT have an amazing new resource which we developed in partnership with Penumbra, to support young people who want to stop self-harming, or who want to support someone else who is self-harming:
We also have two Substance use services to help young people who are having difficulty with their own substance use (including alcohol) or a family member’s substance use – one in South East Edinburgh and one in South West Edinburgh. Sometimes this can get worse over Christmas time. Drugs and alcohol can feel good and they can help us cope with difficult feelings but they can also make things much, much worse by leading us to do things we regret, or harming our bodies. If you think that you would like support to reduce your substance use, or help to deal with a family member’s substance use, remember that we can help.
Some of our young people have been talking about suicide. Sometimes people feel like they just don’t want to be here anymore, or that no-one will care if they die. It’s such a horrible feeling to feel like that and it can feel like no one understands. Sometimes it can be just a passing feeling, or it can keep coming back and sometimes it can be hard to stop thinking about it. Suicide can seem like the answer to a problem – but really it’s not and it can cause so much pain for families and friends.
When people speak to someone about feeling suicidal, it can make a massive difference. At HOT a lot of young people talk to us about suicide and I am always so inspired by how brave they are to open up and talk. Talking can really help – but sometimes you have to keep talking for a while to start noticing the difference. Don’t give up on yourself – help is available.
I have spoken to so many young people who felt like they wanted to end it all but they got help. Now they look back and are so happy that they got the help they needed and made changes. Looking back they can remember the pain of feeling so unhappy but they now have fun and joy and are happy in their lives – it’s amazing how much feelings can change. Sometimes it can help if every time you think about suicide, you try to remember someone you love, or notice the beauty of nature, or you do one thing to look after yourself (speak to the doctor, have a lovely bubble bath, talk to a pal, speak to someone at HOT, do some exercise etc). Just being kind to yourself can help a bit.
Young people talk to us a lot about mental health. It can be so challenging to have mental health problems. Most people will experience mental health difficulties at some point in their lives – so really it’s normal (whatever normal is J). Mental health issues can be things like anxiety, depression or low mood or it can be having a longer term condition. Sometimes young people (and adults) go to the doctor hoping to get pills – thinking that this will be a quick fix. Evidence shows that taking medication when you are still developing (before the age of 25) can cause more problems and it means that you might not sort out the problems that are causing the difficult feelings.
Of course sometimes medication can help people to feel more balanced and more able to deal with the problems that cause their mental health difficulties. Everyone’s situation is different. At HOT we are working on a new leaflet for anxiety – we’ll let you know when it’s ready to share. We also run a referred group called ‘Nae Worries’ that helps young people to manage anxiety. You can also look on our website to find different ways to cope with difficult feelings. There is quite a lot we can do to help ourselves when we experience mental health difficulties.
Some of our young people have been talking about low self-esteem. This is when you feel rubbish about yourself. Self-esteem goes up and down – sometimes you might wake up feeling great about yourself but then someone says something and your self-esteem can come crashing down. Some people feel bad about themselves all the time and this can lead to feeling very low, depressed or anxious. You can help increase your self-esteem by trying do more things that make you feel good about yourself (maybe doing something you know you are good at, trying something new, giving yourself praise when you try, volunteering, helping someone else, doing some self-care or creating something. If you can’t think of anything you do that makes you feel good about yourself, then start thinking about what you could do that would help you feel good about yourself. The only rule to this would be that it shouldn’t be something that makes someone else feel bad.
You can get help to look at how you think about things. Exercise – even just walking – has been shown to help improve mental health. Learning about mindfulness has also been shown to help. Mindfulness is when you try to notice your thoughts and feelings as they happen – without judging them or criticising yourself for them. You just observe them and let them go. Thoughts keep coming back but you just observe them and keep letting them go. I learned loads about myself when I started trying mindfulness. Before then I didn’t realise how much I worried and it was amazing to find a way that helped me to notice when I was worrying and change my attention to something else. There are lots of free apps and information online. Why not try it and see if it works for you.
Young people also talked to us about friendships, feeling lonely and not feeling safe in their community. In some of the areas where we work there are invisible lines that young people feel that they can’t cross, or they’ll get beaten up or attacked. Sometimes if there is lots of aggression or problems in a neighbourhood it can feel very unsafe – going out with a group of friends can help you to feel safer or staying away from dark or quiet areas. I have worked with a lot of young men who felt that they had to fight to impress their friends, or to feel strong but many of them didn’t like fighting. True strength doesn’t come from violence. If you are worried about gangs in your area, or If you feel unsafe or threatened by anyone, please talk to someone about it – or maybe even call the police who might be able to help.
Friendships can be so important to good mental health. We all want to feel loved and cared for. Of course sometimes when friendships break up or if you fall out, it can cause a lot of stress. Speaking to each other about how you feel can help. Social media is where a lot of our young people communicate with their friends. It can much easier for someone to say nasty things online and we work with lots of young people who have had difficulty online. Sometimes people send unwanted pictures, or bully people online. If this happens to you, remember that it’s illegal. Show the pictures or nasty words to someone to get help. You don’t deserve to be treated badly in your lives or on social media. We know that you are smart but remember to be safe online.
Some people don’t have many, or any friends and can feel so isolated. If you feel alone and would like to meet new people you could try our Feel Good groups – there’s free food, fun ways to keep fit and a chance to talk about stuff that matters to you. You could try going along to your local community centre – they often have a whole load of different activities going on which are free or very cheap.
Please don’t suffer alone. You can speak to us at one of our drop-ins or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org At HOT we can help you find healthy ways to cope that are right for you – we understand and we want to help so you don’t have to suffer alone.
We hope you have an amazing holiday and we’ll look forward to seeing you in the New Year