We've all seen the newspaper articles. The shock story about another young person whose life has been brought to an untimely end. At LifeLine, we've had to come to terms with the news that some of the young people on our own programmes have died. It's hard news to hear. And it's equally as hard to talk to a school who doesn't want to hear the message - that some of their students are in danger of becoming involved. Serious youth violence, as reported by the media, has focused on cities - London in particular. And inner-city schools have had…
Last month, tragically, a teenager was stabbed (and died) while attending a knife awareness course. The event was shocking, and raised questions across the sector about how to best safeguard those who are invited to attend such courses.
In our serious youth violence prevention programme SW!TCH Lives (and indeed all of our programmes), we place great emphasis on building relationship through long-term mentoring. This is the best way to get to know the individuals along with who their "ops" (opposition) and associates are. Attempting to discover this information from cold is very difficult; young people are far less inclined to talk honestly, fully, and openly with someone they don't know. We should also note that information changes rapidly and that's why a relational, rather than information-gathering, approach is essential.
Relationship versus service. Two young people - same message - 10 years apart. When will we listen to the young people in our schools, the care system, our communities?
We're excited to announce that TODAY, on #WorldMentalHealthDay2019, more schools across a greater geographical area, including Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge, Havering and now Thurrock will have access to LifeLine's SW!TCH Lives and VIP mentoring programme, designed to improve the life chances of young people who are on the edge of a life of violence and crime, school exclusion or poor mental health.
"There are no parks close by where I can take my child to play! We live in a high rise flat – help, where should we go?" This was the cry of parents at Little Learners Nursery in the centre of Ilford, East London. Rising numbers of parents both return to work after the birth of a child, coupled with various Government schemes on offer (including the whopping 30 hours free childcare) to make this both possible and attractive. It’s not hard to foresee tomorrow’s potential problem for today’s city-centre children. But what's the solution?
Many of the young people LifeLine work with have been deeply affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – or trauma. A growing body of research has identified the harmful effects that such experiences occurring during childhood, or teenage years (for example among others, exposure to domestic violence, or substance abuse or household mental illness) have on lifetime health. Individuals who have ACEs also tend to have more physical and mental health issues as adults than those who don’t and also tend to have a shorter life expectancy*.
A friend of mine recently commented that for some young people, 'the edge' is very close. Her and her husband have prioritised family life. They place a high value on having fun together, and talking together as a family has been something they have tried to cultivate.
When one of their children came back from the first term at university and described some of the things that were going on, they were able to support and point them in the right direction. This child (no longer a child!) is making positive choices about the future - career, relationships and lifestyle. 'The edge' is quite a long way off.
"At the age of 23 I quit full time youth work. I was burnt out and decided to pursue my degree training and get a job in business.
"During the previous three years, along with a team of volunteers, I'd had great fun working with young people. In the course of developing them to be leaders, my creative skills had blossomed and we'd taken the young people on various local, national and international peer leadership programmes. However, fun as it was, I had become frustrated with my team and peers because (I felt) they didn’t do things as well as me. Frustration caused me to think that I was the solution. A very arrogant position which caused me to burn out and eventually quit.
"Eventually I got a job in South Kensington which required lots of commuter time.
"My mentor bought me the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham. As I read, I started to see that my peers were not, in fact ‘useless’ but that they had different strengths to me. I realised that while there were certain skills I was strong in, there were other skills my peers would be strong in. The way to get the best out of them would be to allow each to function in their area of strength.
According to the charity Our Time, the cost of non-intervention for children who are affected by mental health issues is estimated to be a staggering £17 BILLION per year.
Furthermore, research indicates that children living with a parent with mental illness will themselves experience some degree of mental ill-health, unless they get some early support.
As we approach our 20 year anniversary next year, we are inspired to reflect on the legacy that we have left thus far and to think about our trajectory for the next 20 years. How will our actions of today result in a positive impact in the future? By the end of this year alone we will have brought over £2.3m into the voluntary sector in our area. Over the past 19 it's been an astounding £54.5m. We can confidently say that we are an established, mature VCSE organisation, proficient at delivering contracts and running a business.
As the new year is well under way, we ask that you join us in calling young people to 'be the change they wish to see'.
'Deji is dead. He was stabbed, I don't understand... Why?' Chilling words from the mother of a former LifeLine School student, killed in the middle of the day, in broad daylight, on a residential street in south London. He will never have the opportunity to fulfil the dreams he had discussed with his mentor when he left LifeLine school with a 100% attendance record in 2012. All sorts of questions fill our minds: 'How on earth are his family coping with this dreadful news? What went wrong? What can we do to prevent this happening to other students?'